May 17, 2017 1:00 pm JST

Number of flights to Japan to hit record level this summer

Budget carriers pushing down airfares, prompting Chinese, Taiwan airlines to scale back operations

Aircraft taxi near Haneda Airport's international terminal.

TOKYO -- The number of regular international flights to Japan is expected to reach a record 5,169 per week this summer, according to the Japanese transport ministry. The increase may boost spending by foreign visitors as well as overseas trips by Japanese travelers.

On the back of growth in the number of foreign tourists to Japan, the country's major airlines and budget carriers have been increasing their flights. Foreign airlines, including South Korean carriers, are also increasing flights to Japan.

The number of passenger and cargo flights to Japan is expected to be 5,169 this summer, up 3.2% from a year before and 2.5% compared to the winter of 2016. Of the total, about 30% are by Japanese carriers.

Japan's All Nippon Airways, for instance, is set to increase flights this summer on its Haneda-Jakarta route, which has been attracting business travelers recently.

Foreign carriers are becoming more aggressive. In particular, South Korean low-cost carriers, including Jeju Air, T'way Air and Air Busan, are adding more flights. This summer, South Korean airlines will together fly 882 flights per week, some 20% more than last year. Flights are especially growing on routes linking major destinations in Japan and places in South Korea such as Busan and Incheon.

On the other hand, Taiwanese carriers will reduce flights to Japan this summer by 15% compared to last summer and Chinese airlines will cut flights by 3%. Many airlines have been pushed out of the market amid falling airfares thanks to a wave of budget airlines entering the market. Still, the fall in flight numbers has eased since the winter of 2016, and the gap in supply and demand appears to be diminishing.

In terms of destinations in Japan, the picture is patchy. While more flights will arrive at Tokyo's Narita and Haneda airports, those in central and western Japan will see fewer arrivals from abroad. Overall, half of international flights to Japan will arrive at either Narita or Haneda, reflecting continuing demand from people doing business in the greater Tokyo area.

Outside the Tokyo area, New Chitose Airport near Sapporo in the northernmost island of Hokkaido, Naha Airport in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, and other regional airports, will welcome 10% more flights in total this summer compared to last year. Foreign airlines are expanding their networks, launching routes to smaller Japanese airports. China Eastern Airlines has opened a new route between New Chitose and Nanjing.

(Nikkei)

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