Scoot to fly to Hokkaido from Saturday

Budget carrier Scoot begins flying from Singapore to Sapporo, via Taipei, three times a week from Saturday.
Budget carrier Scoot begins flying from Singapore to Sapporo, via Taipei, three times a week from Saturday. PHOTO: GREENLEAF NISEKO VILLAGE HOTEL

Budget carrier Scoot begins flying from Singapore to Sapporo, via Taipei, three times a week from Saturday.

The flight to New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido will take around nine hours, and the price of a return ticket starts from $438 without taxes. Each flight can carry 335 passengers and 10 tonnes of cargo.

At a media conference yesterday, Singapore Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo noted that the launch takes place in a pivotal year for Singapore-Japan ties that were established 50 years ago.

And visiting the Japanese capital to mark the occasion was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. His four-day official visit to Tokyo includes a lunch hosted by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko today.

Tomorrow, he will receive from his Japanese counterpart, Mr Shinzo Abe, the country's top honour for a foreign dignitary on behalf of Singapore's late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March last year.

Japan has posthumously awarded Mr Lee the prestigious Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers to recognise his contributions to the development of bilateral ties over several decades.

Mrs Teo, speaking at yesterday's conference jointly held by the Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro) and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, said Scoot's new route presents plenty of opportunities. Sapporo is Scoot's third destination in Japan after Osaka and Tokyo, bringing to 23 the carrier's total number of weekly flights to Japan.

First, Singapore companies can partner Japanese firms to export Hokkaido produce - including crabs, oysters and scallops - to customers "faster and at lower cost".

Hokkaido is Japan's top agricultural production region, and the Japanese government has also targeted to increase exports to one trillion yen (S$13.5 billion) by 2020 from the current 745 billion yen.

The new route is also expected to boost tourism, she said, noting that one in six of the 300,000 Singapore tourists who visited Japan last year went to Hokkaido.

Jetro executive vice-president Yuri Sato said the new route allows Japan's companies to "leverage the logistics network in Singapore to export goods to India and the Middle East".

Mrs Teo, who is also Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, noted that the new route is only possible because of the air services pact between Singapore and Japan, which was last revised in 2012.

She called for the "strongest support" to expand the pact, joining Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan who, on a visit to Tokyo in April, had made the same call, so as to cement both cities as "aviation hubs".

Japanese carriers have "done very well" for their services to Singapore under the existing pact, she said, noting that in the last five years, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways grew 7 per cent and 12 per cent compounded respectively.

But a more liberal pact, she said, can "bring about even more passenger services, promote more flows of people, trade and investment, between and beyond both countries".

"Since the agreement was upgraded, the slot capacity at Japan's airports has improved. This means whether in Tokyo's Haneda or Narita airports, there is scope for more flights to be mounted," she said, adding that Narita is a "very good airport" for transit flights.

She also noted that Mr Abe has set a target for tourism arrivals in Japan to double to 40 million by 2020.

"We hope to be able to play a small part to contribute to this target being met," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2016, with the headline 'Scoot to fly to Hokkaido from Saturday'. Print Edition | Subscribe