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2009年12月15日 (火)

日米航空自由化 「空」も大競争時代を迎えた

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 15, 2009)
Age of megacompetition in air markets has arrived
日米航空自由化 「空」も大競争時代を迎えた(12月15日付・読売社説)

More than half a century after the opening of routes over the Pacific Ocean between Japan and the United States, a full liberalization of their civil aviation markets will be achieved at last.

The Japanese and U.S. governments have agreed to liberalize air traffic under a so-called open skies accord.

The agreement will be formally signed by October, allowing all Japanese and U.S. carriers to freely decide on the routes and numbers of flights between the two countries, in principle.

To attract tourists and trade from abroad, the United States, European countries and South Korea have already concluded open skies agreements with one another and are promoting liberalization of their respective civil aviation markets. But Japan has cut such a deal only with eight countries and regions, mainly in Asia.

If Japan falls behind further in this endeavor, it could find itself left out of the world's main aviation networks. The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry should strive to ensure that the Japan-U.S. open skies agreement serves its purpose of revitalizing the aviation industry and improving passengers' convenience. The ministry also must quickly overhaul the administration of air transportation and prepare for the fierce competition in the industry that the agreement will bring about.


Too few flight slots available

To increase the routes and numbers of flights under the latest open skies agreement, airports must be able to handle such additional traffic. The liberalization of the civil aviation market has been delayed in Japan mainly because departure and arrival slots at airports in the Tokyo metropolitan area, to which many foreign airlines hope to extend services, have always been fully occupied.

The Japan-U.S. open skies agreement was realized in response to the extension of Runway B at Narita Airport and the scheduled expansion of Haneda Airport, whose fourth runway will open in October, increasing the departure and arrival slots for international flights operated by the two airports by 20,000 and 30,000 a year, respectively, from next year.

But the two airports are expected to immediately fill these increases in flight slots. To see results from the open skies agreement, it is indispensable that efforts be made to increase the flight slots further.

At the same time, it is important to proceed with the plan to transform Haneda Airport into an international hub airport.

In the Japan-U.S. negotiations for the open skies agreement, Japan has agreed to grant the United States landing and departure slots at Haneda Airport for up to four round-trip flights daily late at night and early in the morning. Transport minister Seiji Maehara, meanwhile, has expressed his willingness to allow flights to and from the United States and European countries in the daytime at the airport in and after 2011.


JAL tie-up to have big effects

With the liberalization of flight route scheduling, it is possible that airlines could increase the number of flights to and from the United States at Haneda Airport and reduce those at other international airports. Therefore, Narita, Kansai and Chubu airports will have to make more managerial efforts, including lowering their landing fees.

With the liberalization, there is a higher possibility that even if Japanese and U.S. airlines jointly fix prices and sell tickets to fill seats, they could be exempted from the application of the Antimonopoly Law. A reorganization of the Japanese and U.S. aviation industries likely would be accelerated.

With whom will cash-strapped Japan Airlines conclude a business tie-up--Delta Air Lines or American Airlines? The two U.S. carriers belong to different airline alliances, and JAL's tie-up will have major consequences for the power relationships among the world aviation industries.

We hope that JAL will decide who to tie up with by taking into account passengers' needs, such as reasonable airfares and transit convenience.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 15, 2009)
(2009年12月15日00時50分  読売新聞)


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