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Mandarin Airlines launches charter service to Kyushu

Service offered in response to popularity of Japan as destination

Mandarin Airlines launches charter service to Kyushu

Cashing in on Japan's popularity among Taiwan's leisure travelers, Mandarin Airlines announced yesterday that charter flights to Kyushu, one of Japan's four main islands, will take off starting January 18.

The China Airlines-owned carrier will be flying to Kyushu twice a week, Mandarin Airlines President Harris Wang told an audience of over a hundred travel agents.

The service will run until March 12, 2006.

"We are very upbeat about this new charter service," Wang said. "Our goal is to offer Taiwanese travelers more choices in terms of short-haul destinations, and make traveling more convenient for them."

Mandarin Airlines' new charter flights will be a boon to Kyushu's tourism sector, said Tatsuo Ichikawa, director of the Japan Tourism Association Taiwan Office. Japan attracted more than 1.10 million Taiwanese tourists last year.

"Hokkaido is perhaps the top holiday destination for Taiwanese leisure travelers. Since this market is quite saturated already, we've decided to explore Kyushu's scenic destinations," said Irving Hsu, a marketing manager at Mandarin Airlines.

"Kyushu is also quite close to Taiwan. The travel time - a little more than two hours - is comparable to that of Southeast Asia's."

Some travelers might spend their holidays either in Japan or South Korea this year in lieu of a few Southeast Asian destinations, the official continued.

"People still like to travel to Japan not only because they feel safe and secure there but because of its surroundings and diverse tourism products," Hsu said.

"The market is still not that 'warm' (to certain Southeast Asian destinations). China Airlines and EVA Airways might stop (their services) to Phuket this year. As we all know, Phuket is still not doing so well now. Travelers might go to either Japan or Korea."

Kyushu, which means "nine provinces" from its ancient administrative structure, is the southernmost of Japan's main islands. Today, the island is composed of seven prefectures including Fukuoka, home of Fukuoka city and the "capital" of Kyushu Saga; historic Nagasaki; onsen or hot springs destination Oita; and Miyazaki, Japan's top surfers' destination.

"Prior to this service, we used to fly in and out of Kyushu via Miyazaki airport. This arrangement was not ideal since it prevented tourists from exploring various parts of Kyushu," he said.

"Our new Kyushu service however allows passengers to disembark on Saga airport on Wednesday, and fly out of the region via Miyazaki on Sunday."

Each flight will be carrying 155 passengers, added Mandarin Airlines' Thomas Chou.

Benny Liu, deputy general manager of Richmond International Travel and Tours, said his Kyushu packages were selling like hot cakes.

"We've been preparing for this service's launch since November 2005," Liu told the Taiwan News. "To date, we're nearly sold out."

A five-day, four-night package costs around NT$20,000. The package includes airfare, "quality" hotel accommodations, meals, and land transportation.

"Kyushu has something for everybody. Most of them, of course, prefer to spend their time at Kyushu's hot springs and historical spots. Shopping is another favorite activity for the Taiwanese," Liu said.

The carrier will consider extending its charter service to Kyushu if demand remains high, Mandarin Airlines' Thomas Chou said.

Established on June 1, 1991, Mandarin Airlines services regional short-haul international and domestic routes. In the beginning, Mandarin Airlines mainly operated direct flights from Taipei to Canada's Vancouver, and Australia's Sydney and Brisbane.

The carrier was granted the first ISO-9002 certification for service in Taiwan in April 1996. In 2000, the airline undertook further full-scale quality certification process and was successfully awarded with an ISO-9002 certificate by SGS Yarsley International Certification Service Co., the company said.

On February 2002, Mandarin Airlines introduced three new Boeing 737-800 aircraft into its fleet.

The carrier also operates charter services to Cebu and Subic in the Philippines, Hokkaido, and Myanmar, Chou said.