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Editorial: Shinkansen weighing on Haneda-bound flights from Hokuriku

  • 2015-11-20 15:00:00
  • , Tokyo Shimbun
  • Translation

(Tokyo Shimbun: November 20, 2015 – p. 5)

 

 The start of Hokuriku shinkansen services is putting a damper on air travel between Tokyo’s Haneda airport and Komatsu and Toyama airports. A drastic cut in flights linking Tokyo and the Hokuriku airports is expected after next spring. It is necessary to create a model in which rail and air are compatible, as both are important modes of transportation

 

 The Komatsu-Haneda service, which operates 12 roundtrip flights a day, saw a 36% year-on-year reduction in the number of passengers in the six months through September. For the Toyama-Haneda route, which operates six roundtrips, a year-on-year reduction in passenger traffic came to about 40%.

 

 To deal with this situation, airline companies have switched to smaller aircraft and lowered fares to better compete with shinkansen. The rates of reductions in their earnings are expected to surpass those in their passenger traffic.

 

 Japan Airlines will maintain its six daily flights connecting Haneda and Komatsu, but All Nippon Airways is looking into the possibility of cutting its Haneda-bound services to both Komatsu and Toyama from the end of March. Once the number of flights is cut, it is not easy to increase the number again. Whether Toyama and Komatsu can maintain their Haneda-bound flights depends on their passenger traffic in the current winter season.

 

 The Toyama prefectural office is encouraging its employees to go on business trips by air. It is also expanding perks, such as air tickets and meal coupons at airport restaurants, to companies that support the prefecture’s initiative to promote air travel, as these increase the use of air travel.

 

 Ishikawa Prefecture recommends its employees fly on business trips. It has also relaxed regulations on incentives. It is providing shopping vouchers, free parking tickets and other perks to companies whose employees travel by air only for this month.

 

 These steady efforts are important, but it is also necessary to come up with a concept for promoting the use of both rail and air services.

 

 The number of rail travelers using the Hokuriku shinkansen services jumped three times compared with a year ago, when only express train services were available. The increase was mostly driven by tourists. The idea of increasing package tours that combine both rail and air travel is worthy of consideration.

 

 Passengers who fly from regional airports and transit to other domestic flights or international flights via Haneda should be given more discounts. Travelers from Toyama account for the largest segment in number of transit passengers to international flights via Haneda. There could be more room for discounts if budget airline services are incorporated into package tours.

 

 Two hours is the benchmark for determining whether to travel by rail or air. Haneda-bound services to Sendai, Niigata, and Iwate have been discontinued, as those destinations can be reached in about two hours by shinkansen. Travel time from Tokyo to Hokuriku by shinkansen is more or less the same as to those places. If reductions in flights lead to the discontinuation of routes, users will be inconvenienced. The local communities, users, and transportation companies must work together to benefit all the parties involved. (Abridged)

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