Two new Japanese start-up airlines inaugurate services next year, three years after deregulation led to the launch of the country's first independently owned carriers in more than three decades.

Skynet Asia is seeking to launch services in April, using a Boeing 737-400 initially operating between Tokyo and Miyazaki.

Lequios Airlines is meanwhile planning to launch services in September 2002, probably on a Tokyo-Okinawa route using a Boeing 767-300ER.

The carriers aim to be the fourth and fifth new airlines since deregulation led to the launch of low-fare carriers in 1998 - Skymark Airlines, Hokkaido International Airlines (Air Do) and Fair Inc. All operate one-class services, offering fares below those of incumbent carriers All Nippon Airways, Japan Air System and Japan Airlines, and subsidiaries.

The two latest start-ups will also offer one-class low-fare services, despite financial difficulties that rival independents have faced. Skynet Asia, owned by local investors, has been preparing for the launch of flights for more than four years, and originally intended to operate as Pan Asia.

The company says it will apply for government operating approvals this December to allow for the April launch of Tokyo-Miyazaki services using one leased 737-400.

It says that in its second stage, from next July, it will probably operate a second 737-400 on a Miyazaki-Fukuoka route. "In future we also plan to operate international services," it adds.

Lequios Airlines aims to eventually operate international services, although it will start with domestic flights. The company says it will launch with a single leased 767 and plans to add a second 767 six months later. Lequios was established in 1997 by local investors.

Source: Flight International