27 Mar 2007

JAL gears for rise in Marshall Islands charters

9:59 am on 27 March 2007

Japan Airlines officials are planning a big increase in the number of charter flights to the Marshall Islands despite initial problems that forced the cancellation of planned services for April and May.

With more than 190 Japanese tourists in the capital, Majuro over the past weekend, on the second JAL charter in two months, virtually every hotel room is reported to be booked out.

JAL's manager of International Sales Planning and Marketing, Koji Mochizuki, says they have had no trouble filling the charters.

Mr Mochizuki said that Japanese who have already visited other Pacific islands such as Guam, Saipan

and Palau were looking for a new island destination to experience.

He said the airline planned to develop Majuro as it did Palau, where it started with 3 charters a year and now runs 70.

But the JAL charter service launch has had its teething problems: the government's Ports Authority didn't deliver ground handling equipment as promised, and the airline needed approval for alternative airstrip landing at the nearby US Army's Kwajalein missile testing range to meet safety requirements.

The U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands Clyde Bishop said both he and Army missile range commander Colonel Stevenson Reed emphasised the economic importance of the new JAL charter service to secure the special authorization need.