GARAPAN Saipan — The fanfare of the late June visit of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan and the attention of the worldwide media belied the imminent reduction in airline service from Japan.

Northwest Airlines will be launching Saipan-Osaka flights beginning Oct. 1 2005 the same day Japan Airline’s suspension of its Saipan routes will take effect. That will make up for about half of the lost JAL seats.

Laura Liu Northwest vice president for international and marketing sales said in a statement issued June 21 2005 that the new service between the Northern Mariana Islands and Japan "demonstrates Northwest’s continuing commitment to meeting the changing travel needs of our valued Asia-Pacific customers."

Northwest Airline’s Boeing 757-200 which has 20 business class seats and 162 coach class seats will be used for the new service Liu said.

Northwest’s additional service to the Mariana Islands will include new daily flights between Guam and Nagoya and Guam and Osaka. Osaka service begins Oct. 1 and Nagoya Service begins Nov. 1.

Northwest’s daily nonstop flights between Kansai International Airport and Saipan International Airport will provide CNMI 66 430 seats a year which represents 43% of JAL’s annual traffic.

JAL currently operates daily service to Saipan from Tokyo and Osaka with an average of 155 865 passengers a year. JAL’s direct flights to Saipan represent 44% of Saipan’s Japanese seats.

The loss of flights to Saipan is part of a companywide restructuring at the Japanese airline that will see major route restructuring on JAL’s international routes — including Hawaii and Asian routes — in an effort to cut losses following increased fuel costs.

JAL’s Nagoya-Guam route will be cut on the same date. JAL has 14 flights weekly on the Narita-Guam route and seven a week on the Guam-Kansai route. Those routes will remain untouched. JAL told the Journal its cost-cutting measures are not limited to reductions of flights but could include staff cuts. The Nagoya-Guam route carries an average of 100 passengers a day. The flight has brought Guam about 44 000 visitors a year — almost 5% of Japanese arrivals in 2004. MBJ