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Business trends

Cheap flights have Japanese flying to Seoul for lunch

More routes and friendly fares are changing the country's travel habits

Peach Aviation aircraft at Kansai Airport. The low-cost carrier is expanding domestic and overseas short-haul flights.

TOKYO -- Budget airlines and local carriers in Japan are expanding short-haul Asian routes originating in smaller domestic cities, with some set to offer one-way trips for less than 5,000 yen ($46.49).

The new services are expected to change how people view travel, with more Japanese women taking one-day trips to South Korea for lunch or shopping while their Taiwanese counterparts fly to Okinawa to have their hair done.

The added routes may entice foreign visitors to spend more time in Japan's smaller cities while allowing Japanese living outside of big cities to travel abroad without having to transit at major airports.

Low-cost carrier Peach Aviation has expanded service from Sendai Airport in Miyagi Prefecture north of Tokyo, and now flies to Taipei. In April, it will begin flights between Okinawa and Kaohsiung, Taiwan, with tickets priced from 4,980 yen.

Star Flyer, a carrier based in Fukuoka Prefecture, will launch flights linking Taipei with Japan's Chubu, Kitakyushu and Fukuoka airports next winter.

Meanwhile, Jetstar Asia Airways will start flights between Kansai Airport and Clark International Airport in the Philippines in March, with one-way tickets as low as 5,960 yen.

Budget carriers took off in 2012 and have been expanding routes ever since, along with smaller local carriers.

Long-haul overseas flights are still mostly handled by major airlines serving large airports, but local airports will likely see more traffic from budget-conscious tourists as they increase direct flights from Japan to East Asia.

The airlines are also adding more domestic routes at bargain prices, tempting people to fly off on short excursions while pumping up local tourism.

Peach Aviation CEO Shinichi Inoue said the trends "will encourage interaction between people and unlock latent demand." People living away from families due to work can now travel home nearly every week, he said.

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