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Asian, S. Pacific Airlines Add Flights at LAX

The carriers, struggling from global air-travel slump, say some of the increase is seasonal.

November 04, 2002|James F. Peltz | Times Staff Writer

A few Asian and South Pacific airlines are choosing to spread their wings in Los Angeles as they cautiously expand service in the face of the global travel slump.

Air New Zealand and China Southern Airlines are among those that have added flights from Los Angeles International Airport in recent weeks. Singapore Airlines has announced plans to expand its Los Angeles-Singapore service next year with what it says will be the world's longest nonstop flight, 18 hours, between the two markets. (Its flights currently make a stop in Japan or Taiwan.) Qantas Airways is considering adding a third daily flight from LAX to Sydney next year.

The Los Angeles area scored another victory recently when Japan Airlines decided to consolidate its North American headquarters in El Segundo early next year. JAL will merge its administrative, marketing and operations staffs in New York and San Francisco with its existing sales and reservations office in El Segundo, which will have a total of about 200 employees, said spokeswoman Carol Anderson.

Air New Zealand is expanding to 14 flights a week -- or two a day -- from 10 between Los Angeles and Auckland, the first time in the airline's 60-year history that it has offered such frequent service between those markets, said spokeswoman Lucy Powell. The carrier also is increasing service between LAX and Sydney to five flights a week from three.

China Southern, meanwhile, on Saturday began offering a fifth weekly flight between LAX and Guangzhou, China.

Asian and South Pacific airlines, which board more than 2 million passengers a year at LAX, said some of the added flights reflect seasonal increases in the airlines' capacity. For example, for the next few months it is summer in Australia and New Zealand, and a popular time for tourists.

The carriers said they also are adding seats because of slightly stronger demand for service generally across the Pacific, which plunged in the months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But they cautioned that the market is still very sluggish, and carriers such as Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways are sticking with their current schedules.

"In broad terms we've more than recovered from post-9/11 levels in terms of economy class traffic," said James Boyd, a spokesman for Singapore Airlines. But demand for first- and business-class tickets still has not fully rebounded, he added.

The airline said last week that recovery in air travel "suffered a setback" from the recent terrorist bombing in Bali, and "the short-term outlook for the airline and tourism business is clouded by this and the threat of war in the Middle East."

U.S. carriers with service to Asia also face a struggle. Northwest Airlines, which has a hub in Tokyo and was once known as Northwest Orient, has slashed its Pacific capacity by 12% from a year ago, and the region's passenger traffic in the nine months ended Sept. 30 was down 9%.

Japanese travel to the United States has been especially slow to rebound since the attacks, said Northwest, which has one flight a day between LAX and Tokyo.

"The volume of Japan is not growing as fast as the volume everywhere else," Philip Haan, Northwest's executive vice president for international service, told analysts last month.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

LAX leaders

The largest foreign airlines at Los Angeles International Airport, in terms of airport passengers boarded during the first nine months of this year:

Number of passengers (in thousands)

Mexicana: 375

Air Canada: 350

Qantas: 333

Air New Zealand: 312

Korean Air: 247

Japan Airlines: 209

Air France: 182

Aeromexico: 179

British Airways: 170

China Airlines: 158

Lufthansa: 158

Singapore Airlines: 142

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Source: Los Angeles International Airport

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