TOKYO -- All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines will reduce domestic flights amid slumping demand due to the new coronavirus, the carriers announced on Wednesday.
The move will likely be another hit to the Japanese economy, which is already reeling after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for school closures and cancellations of large events to contain the rising number of coronavirus cases.
Many companies are already limiting domestic and foreign business trips.
From March 6 to March 12, the two airlines will cut 30% of flights between Haneda Airport in Tokyo and New Chitose Airport in Sapporo. Flights between Haneda and Fukuoka Airport will be reduced 20% to 30%.
The virus has already forced the carriers to scale back their international flights
Both airlines say domestic bookings for March are down approximately 40% from the same month last year. ANA, part of ANA Holdings, offers 17 round-trip flights between Haneda and New Chitose airports, while JAL has 16.
ANA will cut up to five round trips per day and JAL as many as four.
Meanwhile, both airlines will reduce as many as two round trips daily between Haneda and Osaka International Airport, down from the current 15 each. As for the Haneda-Fukuoka route, ANA will cut up to three round trips from its current 18 and JAL five from its current 17.
In total, ANA could cut up to 206 domestic flights, about 4% of its domestic routes during the March 6-12 period. JAL could see a reduction of 352 flights, or 6%.
The spread of the coronavirus forced the airlines to partially halt international flights, mostly those connecting China. Compared with the number of China flights before the outbreak, only 25% of ANA's flights and 30% of JAL's remain.
On Feb. 26, Abe asked organizers of big sporting and cultural events to consider canceling or postponing them during what is thought to be a critical period as the country struggles with new infections.
The prime minister also recommended that all elementary, junior high and high schools nationwide be temporarily shuttered for the next few weeks.