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Toki Air Launches Flight Services between Niigata and Sapporo Okadama; Japan’s First Independent Airline in 15 Years

Jiji Press
Toki Air’s first flight takes off from Niigata Airport on Wednesday morning.

Niigata (Jiji Press)—Toki Air, based at Niigata Airport in central Japan, started service Wednesday, becoming the country’s first independent airline in 15 years.

The service by Toki Air connects the airport in the city of Niigata and Sapporo Okadama Airport in Sapporo in the northern Japan prefecture of Hokkaido in one hour and 45 minutes.

Before Toki Air, Fuji Dream Airlines, based in the central city of Shizuoka, entered service as an independent airline in 2009.

Toki Air will operate two round-trip flights a day, four days a week, for the time being, using 72-seater propeller planes of French aircraft manufacturer ATR. The airline plans to expand routes to Sendai, Kobe, Chubu Centrair and Sado airports.

“We want people to feel close to airplanes and more young people to fly on them,” Toki Air President Masaki Hasegawa said at an inaugural ceremony.

Niigata Governor Hideyo Hanazumi said that Toki Air’s service “will have a great effect on revitalizing the whole of Niigata Prefecture.”

Toki Air initially planned to start flight services in fiscal 2022, which ended last March, but the plan was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a maintenance system review.

The airline received a bridge loan of about ¥1.16 billion from the Niigata prefectural government to cover bulging initial costs reflecting soaring fuel prices and the delays in the launch.