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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:38 p.m., Thursday, May 26, 2005

Japan Airlines mulling flight suspensions

Associated Press

TOKYO — Japan Airlines is mulling suspensions of some flights as part of an overall cost-cutting plan, but no decision has been made yet on which flights will be cut, the carrier said today.

The leading business newspaper Nihon Keizai reported earlier this week that JAL will reduce flights from Kansai International to Honolulu from two a day to one. It also said the airline will end once-daily flights from Narita International Airport and Kansai International Airport to Saipan, and from Chubu International Airport to Guam.

Of four international routes from Fukuoka, it will end the Honolulu, Seoul and Hong Kong routes, but continue to fly to Shanghai, the newspaper said, without identifying its sources.

The newspaper said the airline decided it would be difficult to make such routes profitable.

"Like any business, JAL has got to concentrate on moneymaking routes," said Gilbert Kimura, JAL sales director in Hawai'i.

Japan Airlines spokesman Stephen Pearlman denied that a decision had been made, while acknowledging the airline is considering the cuts under a strategy announced in March. Details will likely be decided in July, he said.

Any changes would go into effect Oct. 1, Kimura said.

If JAL cuts the flights, it will reduce scheduled airlift between Hawai'i and Japan by as much as 12 percent, said Frank Haas, marketing director for the Hawai'i Tourism Authority. The agency has been working with the airline to increase the profitability of routes.

The impact on Hawai'i's tourism market would depend on whether other airlines or charter services fill the void, Haas said.

Japan Airlines Corp., formed by the October 2002 merger of Japan Airlines and Japan Air System, returned to profit for the fiscal year ending March 31. International tourism has been slowly recovering since the SARS epidemic sent travel plunging two years ago.

The airline has been hit by a string of safety lapses that has tarnished its image, and its chairman has resigned to take responsibility.