Skymark Airlines may overhaul Narita-Saipan route

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hayao Hora, president of Skymark Airlines, speaks during a recent interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun.

Skymark Airlines may overhaul or even cancel its regular flight service between Narita and Saipan, its only international route, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking during an interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun, company President Hayao Hora said Skymark has no plans at present to resume its regular Narita-Saipan flights, which were suspended amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the company will consider either reducing or ending its Narita-Saipan flights, while focusing instead on improving the earning power of its domestic routes.

Skymark launched Narita-Saipan as its first regular international route in November 2019. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the number of passengers slumped, forcing the company to suspend the service in March 2020.

Hora stressed: “We can’t afford to operate our international route at this time. Instead, we’ll concentrate on restoring our strength to the level we enjoyed before the pandemic began.”

It is expected to take some time for the demand for transport to fully recover. The International Air Transport Association predicts that the global number of passengers will not get back to the level seen in the pre-pandemic period until around 2024.

In contrast, Hora predicts that the number of passengers on domestic flights in July and August will recover to more than 90% of what it was before Japan was hit by the pandemic.

However, group tourists, including those for school excursions, have begun canceling reservations due to the ongoing “seventh wave” of infections.

“We need to carefully ascertain the impact,” Hora said.

Skymark posted a net loss for the business term ending in March this year, the third such loss in a row. But Hora said the company “has not given up being listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange again.”