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Skymark Plans to Be First Budget Carrier With Tokyo Narita Hub

Skymark Airlines Inc. plans to start flying from Tokyo’s Narita airport in November, becoming the first budget carrier to open a hub at Japan’s main international gateway.

The airline will operate 25 flights a day by September 2014 to nine domestic destinations, including Asahikawa, Fukuoka and Sapporo, President Shinichi Nishikubo, who owns 49 percent of the carrier, told reporters in Tokyo today. Fares will be as low as 980 yen ($12) one way, he said.

“We want to try something that no one has ever done,” he said. Fees at Narita are also cheaper than Haneda, Tokyo’s predominately domestic airport, he said.

Skymark will expand its fleet of Boeing Co. 737s to 27 from 18 by March 2013 as it adds new routes, Nishikubo said. The Tokyo-based airline also ordered four Airbus SAS A380 superjumbos as it prepares to challenge All Nippon Airways Co. and Japan Airlines Co. on flights to London beginning in 2014.

Skymark’s cheap prices helped it withstand a slump in Japan air travel since a March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled a nuclear-power plant, Nishikubo said. JAL, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and Singapore Airlines Ltd. have pared Japan services since the temblor.

“The earthquake has had almost no impact on sales,” he said.

Skymark, which is listed on the startup Mothers section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, fell 1.3 percent to 904 yen at the 3 p.m. close of trading in Tokyo. The shares have fallen 23 percent since March 10, compared with a 17 percent decline for Tokyo-based All Nippon.

The discount carrier confirmed an order for four A380 superjumbos in February and may expand its fleet to as many as 15, Nishikubo said last year. The airline also plans to add Frankfurt and New York routes by fiscal 2017.

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