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Air Nippon to stop Naha - Amami route

Date Posted: 1998-05-18

Officials of Air Nippon announced the company's intention, Monday, to close its unprofitable Naha - Amami Oshima route from July. They said that the company is losing money on the route to the tune of 240 million a year and is unable to continue.

Air Nippon has flied the route daily since 1965, but over the past year they have seen their planes to fly with only 40 percent of the seats occupied, a decline from 60 percent the years before.

The announcement has angered the roughly 50,000 natives of Amami Oshima now living in Okinawa who consider the route vital to their ties to their home. "It takes 12 hours by ferry from Amami to Naha, and if we fly first to Kyushu and then back to Naha, the cost becomes prohibitive," a businessman born in Amami and now living in Naha said.

However, the airline officials are adamant. They point out that the Naha - Amami route is not the only one in trouble. They say that the company has accumulated losses totaling 2.8 billion and are planning to scrap another 10 unprofitable routs from their schedule.

"This is a very important route and we must find another solution to the problem. For the beginners we are asking help from officials at the Ministry of Transportation," Okinawa - Amami Association Chairman Takashi Arimura said.

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