Japan's All Nippon Airways has stepped up studies of new business models which could result in it launching an international low-cost carrier in the coming years with equity partners.
ANA at the beginning of April set up a new corporate affairs office for Asia based in Hong Kong - the first time it has put such an office outside of its home country.
The airline says it chose to base the office in Hong Kong "to look at things from a more Asian perspective, rather than just a Japanese perspective".
The team based in Hong Kong has been tasked with studying new business models, one of them being the low-cost/low-fare model.
ANA has for years been considering setting up a low-cost carrier of its own and executives have said it should start operating before Tokyo's congested Haneda airport opens a fourth runway in 2010.
The new runway is to result in scheduled international services being operated out of Haneda, which currently only allows limited international charter flights during the night.
ANA says its new office will look at a possible overseas base for a low-cost carrier that would operate international services within the Asia-Pacific region.
If it recommends that such a venture be entered into the airline would most likely be established in joint venture partnership with other companies.
Many industry observers believe North Asia will become a key market for low-cost airline operations in the future, as Japan, South Korea and China have been liberalising air services policies in recent years.
In South Korea several new low-cost carriers are planned, most of which have international ambitions.