TOKYO -- Osaka-based carrier Peach Aviation will launch service out of Tokyo's Haneda Airport as early as summer, becoming the first Japanese budget airline to offer international flights there.
The ANA group carrier is negotiating with the transport ministry to offer service between Haneda and Taipei's Taoyuan International Airport seven times a week. Departure times will be set between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., with fares likely one-half or one-third those of major airlines.
The move is expected to spur competition as cheaper service becomes available at Haneda Airport, conveniently located close to downtown Tokyo.
Peach offers service out of Kansai International Airport, serving the greater Osaka area, and Naha Airport in Okinawa Prefecture. In the Tokyo area, it is set to start domestic service from Narita Airport -- farther from central Tokyo -- to Hokkaido and Fukuoka starting this March.
The ministry's strategy has been to steer budget carriers, used mainly for leisure travel, toward Narita Airport. Major airlines, used chiefly for business trips, are encouraged to fly out of Haneda.
But to fill more late-night slots and lure more foreigners to Japan, the ministry has decided to let Peach offer service from Haneda.
Just 26 of the 40 slots now available between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. at Haneda are in use. Hong Kong Express Airways, flying a Tokyo-Hong Kong route, is among the few budget carriers that use the airport.
Higher landing fees at Haneda have kept some airlines away. To encourage more carriers to use late-night slots, the transport ministry launched a discount program in November. It offers a 50% discount in the first year, a 30% reduction in the second year, and a 20% cut in the third year. Peach will take advantage of the program.
But the ministry is cautious about opening up slots to just any budget carrier, since it could erode Narita's standing as an international airport. It may set some criteria for budget carriers to use Haneda going forward, aiming to keep Narita from losing too much demand.