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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, October 23, 2001

JAL mulls more flight cuts

By John Duchemin
Advertiser Staff Writer

With passenger loads still half of normal levels, Japan Airlines says it is considering further reducing its flight schedule to Hawai'i.

The move would temporarily suspend daily flights to the Islands from several of Japan's regional airports — Nagoya, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Hiroshima and Sendai, said Gilbert Kimura, sales manager for Japan Airlines in Honolulu.

Those flights make up more than half of the airline's daily trips to Honolulu.

An announcement of cutbacks likely is imminent, Kimura said.

"There has been a lot of discussion on cutting back some of these flights, if the small (passenger) load continues," he said.

Further cuts would follow a 24 percent reduction Asia's largest carrier made to its trans-Pacific flights — including 20 percent of its weekly flights to Hawai'i — earlier this month to adjust for slumping ticket sales in the United States.

Japan Airlines, the No. 1 air carrier between Hawai'i and Japan, has suffered huge passenger dropoff since since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the start of the U.S. attack on Afghanistan.

Daily Japanese arrivals to Hawai'i have declined between 40 percent and 60 percent of last year's levels, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The latest numbers show no improvement. On Friday, arrivals from Japan were down 58 percent from last year's levels, and weekend flights were less than half full, Kimura said.

The airline on Oct. 3 announced that it would suspend half its Honolulu flights from Tokyo and Osaka airports, and trim its daily schedule to eight flights from 11.

The airline now has two flights per day from Tokyo, one from Osaka, and five from the regional airports, plus a few weekly flights from Niigata.

Kimura said Japan Airlines will decide by the end of November whether to resume any of the suspended flights, depending on the strength of December bookings. December is traditionally a strong month for the airline's Hawai'i routes, Kimura said.

Last week, Japan Airlines forecast a loss of $330 million this business year, blaming a drop in travel and cargo demand after last month's terrorist attacks.

Other airlines in the region have reported cuts to services, with Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., Asia's No. 5 carrier, saying it would trim its flights by about 4 percent to reduce excess capacity.

The International Air Transport Association estimates the world's airlines may lose as much as $12 billion this year because of reduced travel by consumers, leading to route cuts and the loss of as many as 200,000 jobs.