All Nippon Airlines (ANA) will provide operational assistance to Japan's latest regional newcomer, Fair Inc, as Japan's aviation market continues to liberalise.

The agreement comes as Japan's government prepares to drop restrictions on route entry and withdrawal and remove all ticket price controls at the start of February. "The domestic market will be completely deregulated from that time on," says ANA.

ANA says its agreement with Tokyo-based Fair Inc covers flight operations, flightcrew provision, and "assistance and know-how" in maintenance and engineering.

The airline will launch with 50-seat Bombardier Canadair Regional Jets (CRJ) in mid-2000 using the first of two aircraft leased from Lauda Air. A second will arrive later in 2000, followed by two new CRJs in mid-2002.

ANA says a group of its pilots will be assigned to Fair Inc for an anticipated three-year period under the terms of the agreement.

Fair Inc hopes to begin operating services from its base in Sendai to Hiroshima Nishi airport and from Nishi to Tokyo Haneda, provided it is granted the necessary slots. Other routes are being considered if the carrier fails to obtain the slots, with the overcrowded Haneda considered a difficult target for slot allocation.

President and chief executive of Fair Inc Jun Okawara was formerly founding vice-chairman of Skymark, the first of Japan's new domestic carriers.

Source: Flight International