NICHOLAS IONIDES ATI SINGAPORE Japan's major carriers are to introduce new discount fares for domestic travel from April following a revision to Japanese aviation laws.

The changes to aviation laws were made official on 1 February, when the current approval system for domestic fares was replaced with a filing system. Restrictions that limited the level of normal fares and set a maximum discount rate at 50% have also been eliminated, meaning that carriers can set their own prices for the first time. The change is the final stage in Japan's deregulation programme, which began in 1986.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) is to discount fares, with as much as 74% off normal levels. Japan Airlines (JAL) will reduce prices by up to 66% from the same day, while Japan Air System (JAS) is to lower its fares by up to 65%.

ANA has based its new fares on a four-category system. One covers round-trip travel during "regular" periods, under which prices will be 2% below normal fare levels. A second category covers regular one-way travel with no ticket restrictions, with prices to be increased by an average of 15%.

The biggest cuts will be made through a new "super-discount" category, under which all seats not purchased by the beginning of a set reservations period will be offered for sale at heavily discounted prices. A final category covers general fare discounting.

ANA predicts that 95% of all customers will take advantage of discounted pricing after the changes, compared with the current 70%.

JAL is taking a different approach, setting its new fares along geographic lines. It separates out routes to and from Hokkaido and also Okinawa for different fare levels from elsewhere on its domestic network. Tickets booked via its Internet site will be reduced on a trial basis from mid-May to mid-June by an average of 25%.

JAS, meanwhile, is making its mark, with a new discount category catering to passengers who travel to their home towns to visit elderly parents.

Source: Airline Business