CHINA Airlines is gearing up for the launch of new routes and services between Taiwan and Japan early next year in the wake of the November 10 signing of an open skies agreement between the two countries.
“We expect the agreement to bring a significant increase in flight frequencies and passengers carried, and a resulting growth in revenue for our airline,” said Hamilton K. C. Liu, spokesperson and vice president, public relations, China Airlines.
Before the agreement, each country allowed two airlines – Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) for Japan and China Airlines (CAL) and EVA Airways from Taiwan – to offer regular passenger service on key routes.
Under the new agreement, other Taiwanese airlines will also operate to Japan
According to CAL, 1.1 million Japanese travelled to Taiwan last year, while 1.4 million Taiwanese went to Japan, for a total of 2.5 million visits between the two countries.
Liu would not disclose what CAL’s share of this market is, but CAL claims to be the top passenger carrier for this two-way traffic.
The March 11 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami caused a precipitous drop in Taiwan outbound to Japan, which fell 21 percent to 1.1 million flights from January through September, according to the Taiwan Tourism Bureau. Half a year after the disaster, Taiwan outbound to Japan had not yet fully recovered, with month-on-month comparison for September still down 14 per cent.
But the worst has passed. “Load factors on Taiwan to Japan flights are again approaching their pre-tsunami average – 80 per cent,” said Liu.
Last year, CAL operated 92 scheduled flights from its home port, Taoyuan, to eight cities in Japan with nine destinations, including Narita and Haneda airports in Tokyo, as well as the cities of Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Myazaki, Sapporo and Okinawa.
Under the open skies agreement, CAL will continue to promote flights to these Japanese destinations.
“We will be cooperating with travel agents, as well as offer special travel packages and benefits under our Dynasty Flyer program,” said Liu.
More importantly, CAL will launch new routes. Under consideration are flights to Kagoshima and Shizuoka and possibly Niigata and Toyama.
For Taiwanese residents in southern Taiwan, CAL is planning regular flights from Kaohsiung to Osaka.
By Glenn Smith