Shanghai-based Spring Airlines is offering free tickets to Japan in a bid to boost demand, reported Asahi Shimbun Tuesday.
This comes in the wake of the territorial dispute between China and Japan over the disputed Diaoyu islands, which led to a sharp drop in demand by Chinese travelling to Japan. Both China and Japan lay claim to the islands of Diaoyu, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan.
Spring Airlines, China’s largest private low-cost carrier, is offering free round-trip tickets between Shanghai's Pudong airport and Japan's Saga Prefecture, a rural area in southern Japan near the city of Fukuoka, until December 20.
Currently, Spring Airlines' flights to Saga, which run three times a week, are more than half empty compared with 90 percent occupancy before an escalation of the islands dispute. Last month, due to a sharp fall in demand, the carrier also cancelled 10 chartered flights between Shanghai and Tottori in western Japan. Occupancy on the carrier’s flights to Tokyo has also fallen more than 20 percent, reported the daily.
This new promotion means passengers on the free round trip need only pay 1,030 yuan ($164) for taxes and surcharges. A return flight ticket on Spring Airlines on the Pudong-Saga route normally ranges from 239 yuan ($38) to 3,000 yuan ($480), excluding taxes and surcharges. According to a report Wednesday in China Daily, 50 reduced tickets will be available on each Shanghai-Saga flight, which has a capacity of 180 passengers, and when purchased in Japan, each such ticket will cost 1 yen.
The free flight offer is expected to be extended to another Japan route, between Shanghai and Kagawa, on the Japanese island of Shikoku, although no dates were mentioned.
Meanwhile, the islands dispute has also led to China Southern Airlines to reduce the number of flights to various destinations in Japan as a result of trips being cancelled by Chinese holidaymakers, reported Xinhua news agency last month.
New flight routes by other airlines which were to be launched between China and Japan were also cancelled or postponed. China Eastern Airlines announced it would delay the launch of a new route between Shanghai and Sendai, which was scheduled to start on October 18, due to insufficient passenger demand, while Juneyao Airlines, another Shanghai-based airline, also announced the postponement of a planned launch of a new route between Shanghai and Okinawa.