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Chinese airline downsizing Okinawa flight schedule

Date Posted: 2006-03-10

A year-long experiment with an almost daily flight schedule between Shanghai and Okinawa has failed.

China East Airline says it will reduce its weekly schedule from five round trip flights down to two, beginning March 26th. The airline has already notified the Japanese Minister of National Land and Transportation.

The mainland Chinese airline first began flying to Okinawa in August 2000, first with twice weekly flights. In 2004, the airline went to a daily round trip schedule, but 60.5% seat occupancy forced them to return to the twice weekly schedule.

A campaign by Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine to boost tourism and trade between Okinawa and Shanghai led to an agreement to try the five times a week schedule once more, but airline officials say there simply isnít enough business.

Beginning the 26th, the China East Airline will fly on Wednesdays and Saturdays between Okinawa and Shanghai. A Prefecture official expressed sorrow at the move. ďI feel very sorry, because were were going to make a new plan for a Shanghai trip to bring customers from the mainland. We wanted to make Okinawa an important tourism point for Shanghai.Ē The official says the Prefecture still wants to press for keeping the five flights a week, but that Okinawa hasnít heard an answer from the airline.

Aviation industry observers say the Okinawa-Shanghai route isnít profitable, and that China East Airline thinks it can generate more revenues with a mainland Japanese route, where there are more customers.

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