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Japan budget carrier cancels flights due to pilot shortage

Japanese low cost carrier Vanilla Air said on Friday it will cancel scores of flights in June because it does not have enough pilots to fly them.

TOKYO: Japanese low cost carrier Vanilla Air said on Friday it will cancel scores of flights in June because it does not have enough pilots to fly them.

The airline, wholly owned by the operator of All Nippon Airways (ANA), will cut 154 flights -- around a third of its domestic schedule -- for June, president Tomonori Ishii told reporters.

"The company has not been able to secure a planned number of pilots, on top of some crew members leaving the firm," he said, adding that the cancellations would affect more than 2,500 passengers who have made reservations for the month.

Passengers will be guaranteed a seat with another airline in lieu of their Vanilla Air ticket, Ishii said.

Full operations are expected to resume in July with some pilots still in training and others borrowed from ANA, he added.

Particularly hard-hit will be flights between Tokyo and southern Okinawa as well as those to northern Sapporo, he said. There will be no impact on international flights.

Vanilla Air is the name ANA gave the carrier when a joint venture with Malaysia-based AirAsia fell apart late last year in a dispute over business practices.

It only began flights in December, and Ishii blamed the company's short flying record for "not being competitive enough" to attract pilots. He did not mention pay.

Vanilla Air is not the only budget airline to be struggling with a shortage of pilots.

Competitor Peach Aviation warned last month it will cancel more than 2,000 flights by October, because of insufficient qualified flyers.

The UN's aviation agency warned two years ago that demand for pilots is expected to double by 2030, with the shortage of crew particularly acute in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where the markets are expanding rapidly.

In 2010, there were an estimated 460,000 licensed pilots in the world but more than 980,000 are expected to be needed by 2030, the International Civil Aviation Organisation said.

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