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Airline cancels Japan flight promotion after uproar


08:42, October 19, 2012

SHANGHAI, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- Chinese budget air carrier Spring Airlines on Thursday dropped a promotion on flights to and from Japan just two days after the deal's launch, following online anger at the initiative.

Zhang Wu'an, spokesman for Spring Airlines, said the campaign was canceled mainly due to pressure from domestic netizens in the wake of Chinese protests over Japan's illegal "purchase" of the Diaoyu Islands and ensuing declines in the number of China-Japan travelers.

The promotion had been scheduled to run till Dec. 20, offering no more than 50 free tickets for each flight between Shanghai and Japan's Saga and Kagawa prefectures. Under the deal, people were only required to pay airport construction fees and fuel surcharges to fly on the routes.

According to Zhang, more than 2,000 of the tickets were booked by both Chinese and Japanese citizens during the two days that the promotion ran.

It was launched by the privately owned airline to prop up business in Japan, but was rather low profile back at home, he said.

Nevertheless, the promotion grabbed the attention of many Chinese Internet users and most of them were opposed to offering the free tickets.

Many Chinese and Japanese air carriers have announced suspensions of China-Japan services or cuts in the number of such services as the Diaoyu Islands dispute led to sharply declined demand to fly.

The dispute had slashed Spring Airlines' number of air passengers between the two Asian giants by about half, Zhang estimated, adding that the average occupancy rates of its flights between Shanghai and Saga and Kagawa were reduced by up to 40 percentage points.

The two Japanese prefectures also did not want to see flights cut or suspended as Spring Airlines is the only air carrier that links them to Shanghai, the spokesman added.

The promotion was finally launched after getting support from the two prefectures, said Zhang, without elaborating on what that involved.

The affair prompted intense debate online.

"I don't want to comment on Spring Airlines. But as a Chinese, I have my own choice and stance: I won't fly to Japan even if the tickets were free. I won't make any plans or accept any incentives to go to Japan within one to two years," wrote microblogger "Lixiafn" on Sina Weibo, the popular Twitter-like service.

However, Zhang Feng, who works for an accounting agency in Shanghai, said, "The Diaoyu Islands dispute shouldn't affect normal exchanges between the two countries.

"If an airline offers free tickets, that is a good opportunity for travel. I'll make trips to Japan if my company can approve my leave."
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