Posts: 75
Joined: Fri Aug 06, 1999 10:55 am

Japanese News: Osaka-Tokyo Shuttle

Tue Jan 11, 2000 9:02 am

You were wondering about Japanese news?

Three Japanese airlines are jointly discussing the creation of an hourly Osaka-Tokyo shuttle, with flights every 30 minutes during peak morning and evening hours. Japan Airlines Co. (JAL), All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA) and Japan Air System Co. (JAS) would increase the flights starting in July, when slots at Haneda are increased. They are envisioning something similar to the Washington-New York shuttle. The airlines would jointly operate dedicated shuttle check-in counters at either terminal.
The three airlines currently have about 15 flights a day between Osaka's old airport (ITM) and Haneda. In fiscal year 1997, only 19% of Osaka-Tokyo travellers flew while most of the remainder took the bullet train.
If it sounds like the airlines are getting too cosy, remember they are still competing against the monopoly rapid rail service, so the consumer is sure to win out. Both the airlines and Japan Railways have used Osaka-Tokyo as a cash cow. Now that they are competing more aggressively we will see lower fares AND better service.

(By the way, the Asahi Evening News has a story about this at http://www.asahi.com/english/enews/enews.html#enews_26979, but this will disappear in about 6 hours).

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Joined: Mon Dec 20, 1999 9:14 am

RE: Japanese News: Osaka-Tokyo Shuttle

Tue Jan 11, 2000 9:30 am

Yes, that is very interesting, thanks. Osaka has become like a secondary gateway to Japan after Tokyo, of course, as Osaka receives more international flights. It will be interesting to see if more Japanese fly between the two rather than take the bullet. Japanese like their trains very much, but I wonder if operating a bullet train is more expensive than an airliner.
Perhaps this is a sign that the Japanese economy could be recovering after years & years of recessions. When I went to Japan, I was shocked to see homeless people in the city parks! Our Japanese guide told us that people living in the streets would have been unimaginable just a decade ago, in the booming 80's.
My internet was not shut down, the internet has shut me down
Posts: 75
Joined: Fri Aug 06, 1999 10:55 am

A Few Follow-up Points

Tue Jan 11, 2000 11:34 am

1) "Osaka as Gateway"
Keep in mind that the shuttle will run out of the old domestic airport, and not the newer international gateway (KIX), so Osaka's role as a gateway has very little to do with the increase in domestic flights.
(When Kansai Int'l Airport (KIX) opened up, the old airport's code changed from OSA to ITM, but its name changed from Itami to Osaka. Very confusing. It also kept the "International" in its name, even though it has no international flights.)

2) Comparative costs of trains and planes
The bullet train between Tokyo and Osaka is operated by JR Tokai, which runs the old national network in the central part of Japan. 80% of all of their revenue comes from the bullet train, so it's not a matter of how much it costs them to run the trains, so much as how much they can milk out of it to help support their other operations. The company has an obligation to pay off the debt it owes the Japanese taxpayer from when it was privatized. The president of JR Tokai has said he wants to compete by improving service and not by reducing price.

3) Sign of improving economy?
I see the shuttle as a sign of deregulation, and not necessarily linked to the economy. Fares were (apparently) liberalized last February. Also, two recent domestic startups (Skymark and AirDo) have really bitten into JAS/JAL/ANA's revenues by slashing domestic fares, so I think JAS/JAL/ANA are trying to steal some business from the railway. And by starting up a highly efficient cooperative shuttle service between Osaka and Tokyo they are preempting another startup from trying the same thing.
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Joined: Mon Dec 20, 1999 9:14 am

RE: A Few Follow-up Points

Tue Jan 11, 2000 11:54 am

No, I did not mean that travellers would use Osaka as a way to get to Tokyo! I meant people could go to Osaka, stay in town for a day or two, visit downtown, Osaka Castle, stroll thru Shinsiabash street (sorry if I mispelled), etc, & then choose to head either to the bullet train station & the domestic airport, once the shuttle begins!
And I agree on the economy, there have been some signs business in Japan may be reestructuring, including the airlines, along with more foreign participation, but the real economy is still being strangled by the Japanese obsession to save $$!! Here in the U.S, we have the opposite problem, we spend more than we earn!! But I think any new service in Japan has to be viewed as positive.
My internet was not shut down, the internet has shut me down

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