Andrzej Jeziorski/SINGAPORE

Fare cuts by Japan's "big three" airlines have taken their toll on the country's two new domestic carriers, Skymark and Air Do. The start-ups, which challenged All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines and Japan Air System on high-density domestic routes, have suffered falling load factors since April and have taken a further sharp drop since 1 June, when the three majors dropped fares to match them.

The average load factor on Skymark's three routes fell to 31.5% by early June, while Air Do has reported average load factors of 45% for the month. Both achieved average load factors of 80% in their first months of operation. Skymark's Osaka-Sapporo service has been hit hard, with load factors averaging about 10% since services began.

Skymark launched last September between Tokyo and Fukuoka, later adding flights from Osaka to Sapporo and Fukuoka. Air Do began services from Tokyo to Sapporo last December.

• The "big three" Japanese airlines are discussing joint shuttle services between Tokyo and Osaka. "The concept has some appeal because it would be a highly competitive operation against the Shinkansen [bullet train]," JAL says. It warns that it could be thwarted by poor slot availability at Osaka's Itami Airport, the carriers' preferred terminal in that it is closest to the city's business district.

Source: Flight International