TOKYO (Nikkei)–JTB Corp., Kinki Nippon Tourist Co., Nippon Travel Agency Co. and other top travel booking firms plan to start jointly purchasing overseas charter flights as early as next year, with each to market its own tour packages, The Nikkei learned Thursday.
Talks to increase charter flight usage are under way through the Japan Association of Travel Agents. Hankyu Travel International Co., H.I.S. Co. and Jalpak Co. are taking part in the discussions as well, with Japan Airlines Corp. and All Nippon Airways Co. observing. The details will be decided by fall.
The group envisions establishing limited-liability partnerships based on regions such as Hokkaido, the Kanto area and Kyushu. The partnerships, backed by travel agencies with branches in those areas, would hire the charter flights. Each travel agency would develop separate tour packages, offering accommodation and other options.
Direct flights from regional centers, such as a Sendai-Hawaii or Niigata-Switzerland route, would likely reduce costs for travelers from those areas by 30,000 yen to 40,000 yen, considering that they currently transfer to international flights at Narita, Kansai and other airports.
Since the charter flights will also spur regional airport usage, the association expects to receive advertising and promotional assistance from local governments.
At present, a single travel agent must buy all seats on a charter flight at a price determined with the airline. But losses have been ballooning because of the rise in empty seats.
By joining forces to hire charter flights, the travel agencies will be able to reduce the risk of unsold tickets and can make travel packages more affordable. Furthermore, the arrangement is seen pushing up the number of chartered flights to 9,200 in 2012, up 60% from 2008.
(The Nikkei June 19 morning edition)