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Spring Airlines touts discount seats to Japan

One-way Spring Airlines' flights from Shanghai to Japan will be sold for as little as 4,000 yen ($42.28) beginning Sept 15, the Shanghai-based budget carrier said on Wednesday. The low-price airfares are expected to attract more low and middle-income customers to travel by air, said analysts.
As the nation's only budget carrier, Spring Airlines made the announcement on its website that it will start accepting reservations Aug 30 for the Shanghai to Ibaraki Airport flight, which is located about 80 kilometers northeast of Tokyo.
The 4,000-yen seats (pretax) will make up approximately 10 percent of each flight, or 18 tickets per flight. Meanwhile, the budget airline will offer the remaining seats for between 8,000 yen and 12,000 yen.
Spring Airlines launched the Shanghai to Ibaraki route on July 28, becoming the first private carrier to operate international flights. However, current flights are charter-only flights carrying passengers from travel agencies.
'Individual travelers will be able to book tickets themselves for the Shanghai-Ibaraki flight starting Sept 15,' said Zhang Wuan, a spokesman for Spring Airlines.
According to Zhang, tickets for individual travelers will vary from flight to flight, but the quota will be within 50 percent of the total ticket amount.
Currently, flights are available every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, and Spring Airlines will try to expand the flight range on a daily basis in the future, said Zhang.
Average round-trip flights will cost between 3,500 yuan ($514.82) and 4,000 yuan, and the special offer is designed to attract more people to visit Japan, said Gao Shiliang, an analyst at Central China Securities.
'Like the former low-cost flights that Spring Airlines offered, the Shanghai to Ibaraki flights will surely make a stir in the aviation industry.
But considering the small quantity of discount tickets offered, the impact will be limited,' said Gao.
Gao said he preferred to take Spring Airlines' offer as a sales tactic with advertising effectiveness.
'Surely the low ticket price will attract some tourists, but other travelers such as those on business trips will probably prefer direct flights to Tokyo for its greater convenience and efficiency,' said Wei Fang, an analyst at Goldstate Securities.
The ticket price accounts for 80 percent of the total cost of a tour to Japan, according to Michael Peng, a sales manager from Shanghai Business International Travel Service Co.
However, Peng noted a catch with one-way tickets. When a tourist fails to book a ticket on the carrier back to Shanghai, a single ticket may cost up to 5,000 yuan.
Different from State-owned carriers, privately run Spring Airlines receives less government support and policy preferences, said Wei.
'So its market strategy is more passenger-oriented and often uses the leverage of low ticket prices,' he said.
'The best schedules and routes are set aside for State-owned carriers. As the budget carrier is charged the same amount for fuel, landing rights and take-off fees, its profit margin will be reduced when operating less popular routes,' Wei said.
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