Mon, Mar 11, 2002 - Page 17 News List

Airlines eye Tokyo route

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

With the frequency of flights between Taipei and Tokyo set to rise in mid-April, airfares on the popular route are set to nosedive, an industry professional said last week.

"Air-ticket prices on the route could drop by about two to three thousand New Taiwan dollars sometime next month," said David Wei (魏德華), executive manager at Everlight Travel Service Co Ltd (洋洋旅行社).

A check of online ticket prices confirmed Wei's statement.

Online travel-ticket dealer (易遊網) listed a Northwest Airlines round trip ticket between Taipei and Tokyo at NT$13,000 -- but for April it will be NT$9,000. Nevertheless, the fine print reveals that the tickets are non-refundable, non-rerouteable and require full payment seven days in advance.

Tokyo's Narita International Airport is scheduled to open its secondary runway on April 18, increasing flight capacity by about 50 percent.

EVA Airlines Corp (長榮), which currently has just two flights per week between Taipei and Tokyo, will have 21 flights per week on the route after April 18.

China Airlines Co's (華航) frequency will increase by one flight per week, bringing its total on the route to 22 per week.

United Airlines will begin offering service on the Tokyo route with one new daily flight.

Northwest Airlines, in addition to daily flights between Taipei and Tokyo, will resume daily Kaohsiung-Tokyo flights in April as well.

Another industry insider said that Tokyo-bound flight demand is very strong and stable.

"Even in September and October last year, right after the Sept. 11 attacks, our Tokyo-bound flights were still jam packed," said Wang Chin (王謹), general manager of Northwest Airlines Taiwan.

Taiwanese visit Japan more than any other country in the world, with 741,767 Taiwanese heading there last year.

"That route is always profitable and all airlines want to cash in on it," Wang said.

Increased flights between Taipei and Tokyo may also be good news for tourism in Hawaii.

"Many airlines offer nonstop flights between Tokyo and Honolulu, so I expect that more Taiwanese will begin considering a trip to Hawaii," said Dave Hu (胡漢寧), a manager at Everlight.

According to Hu, with low demand and high cost, direct flights between Taipei and Honolulu on EVA Airways and China Airlines were cancelled last year.

"With less flights, the number of our Hawaii bound group travelers dropped from 3,000 customers in 2000 to 500 customers last year," Hu said.

"This year we hope to attract more than 1,500 travelers to Hawaii by bundling a Tokyo-Hawaii package," he said.

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