China's Spring to use 737-800s for Japanese operations

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China's Spring Airlines will use Boeing 737-800 aircraft for its Japanese operation and move away from the Airbus A320s that it operates in the mainland.

Japanese customers and regulators are more familiar with the 737, and it is easier to get pilots, engineers and crew for the aircraft in the country, says a Spring official who did not want to be named.

The airline has secured one aircraft for proving tests as part of its application for a Japanese air operators' certificate (AOC), says the official.

It is still not clear when the airline will receive its AOC, although the company has lined up a domestic partner as it can only hold a 33% stake in Spring Japan because of local regulations. It has also hired several Japanese executives ahead of the unit's launch, while some executives from China have been seconded to help Spring better understand the Japanese market.

Sources familiar with the application say that there could be a delay led by the ongoing political problems between Japan and China over the disputed ownership of several islands, which has resulted in street protests in both countries. The Chinese airline had hoped that Spring Japan will begin operations in early 2013.

Spring has cancelled several regular and charter flights into Japan, which is normally a popular tourist destination for Chinese nationals, in the last few weeks. This was after several tour agencies reported a sharp increase in the cancellation of bookings.

Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, as well as other Chinese carriers, have also reduced the frequency of some services and temporarily suspended others as a result of a fall in tourist numbers.