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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Japan's top airlines raising fares

By Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i and Waikiki in particular has seen fewer tourists from Japan this year, a decline attributed to higher airfares, rising room rates and fewer airline seats in Hawai'i-Japan routes. News yesterday that airfares to Hawai'i from Japan will rise may slow tourism even more.

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Japan's largest airlines plan to raise fares to Hawai'i and other North American destinations by 7 percent, just as Japanese arrivals to the state have been tumbling.

Japan Airlines said yesterday that the 7 percent fare increase will take effect in April to cover rising fuel costs. All Nippon Airways told Bloomberg News that it will match JAL's fare hike.

JAL, which also plans to raise domestic fares in Japan by as much as 5.6 percent, said in a filing with the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation that the higher fares will be for tickets purchased after Feb. 1 for travel between April 1 and Sept. 30.

JAL said the fare increase will not apply on weekend flights to Hawai'i.

High jet-fuel prices have been hurting the airlines, including JAL, which is Asia's biggest airline by revenue. Last month, the carrier cut its operating outlook for the year ending March 2007 by 24 percent, according to Bloomberg. The airline said it expects fuel costs to rise 11 percent in its current fiscal year.

The fare increases come at a time when visitor arrivals from Japan are down 8.9 percent from a year ago. For the first 11 months this year, the number of visitors to Hawai'i from Japan has skidded to 1.26 million from 1.39 million during the same period in 2005.

Tourism officials have blamed the decline on higher international fares, higher room rates and a decrease in the number of air seats to Hawai'i. Overall travel to Hawai'i is down about 0.1 percent from last year's record pace, in which a total of 7.4 million tourists visited here.

On April 1, JAL eliminated a domestic fuel surcharge and introduced domestic fare increases to pay for higher fuel costs.

Jet-fuel prices have fallen 18 percent from a record high of $93.00 a barrel on Aug. 8 but remain above last year's levels.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

Reach Rick Daysog at rdaysog@honoluluadvertiser.com.