Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Skymark to bring the Airbus A380 to Kobe.

Skymark Airlines (BC/SKY) said they are planning to bring the Airbus A380 to Kobe (UKB/RJBE) later this year for display and events. The third largest domestic carrier intends to take delivery of their first example, A380-841 JA380A, around August or September this year, and start utilizing the type in December to inaugurate Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) - New York/John F. Kennedy (JFK/KJFK), their first scheduled international route.
Skymark's first Airbus A380-841, JA380A, takes shape at Toulouse. (Photo: Airbus)

According to President and CEO Shinichi Nishikubo, bringing the A380 to Kobe would "be a chance to let people in the Kansai (Greater Osaka) region know that Skymark has a hub in Kobe", implying increased competition with Peach Aviation (MM/APJ). Skymark is the biggest carrier at Kobe flying 19 round-trips daily to Ibaraki (IBR/RJAH), Ishigaki (ISG/ROIG), Kagoshima (KOJ/RJFK), Nagasaki (NGS/RJFU), Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH), Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT), and Yonago (YGJ/RJOH), accounting for about 70% of total flights. Ishigaki will be suspended from March 30th, and Sendai (SDJ/RJSS) will be launched from April 1st.

Kobe celebrated its eighth birthday on February 16th, however, its passenger numbers for fiscal year 2012 was 160,000 less than the year before and has been decreasing. The Greater Osaka region's has three other airports which include Itami (ITM/RJOO), Kansai (KIX/RJBB), and mostly general aviation Yao (RJOY), and the advent of homegrown LCC Peach at Kansai Airport has especially had a big impact on the area's cost-conscious travelers. Skymark, together with Kobe Airport, are pinning hopes that building up routes to secondary cities that LCCs so far cannot profitably fly to would make Kobe a viable domestic hub competing with Kansai and Peach.

Located in Osaka's neighbor city of Kobe, the airport is actually only a 40-to-50-minute train ride from central Osaka, while convenient Itami is about 30 to 40 minutes, and Kansai is farthest at around 1 hour with an express train. However, the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) limits the number of flights at Kobe to 30 slot-pairs per day, citing air traffic control (ATC) safety issues which arise from having four airports in a 25-kilometer radius, limiting growth. In reality, this has been seen as a government's move to protect loss-making Kansai Airport's profits and status as Osaka's premier hub, as Kansai sees far less congestion than at Tokyo's Haneda or Narita airports and is not slot-restricted at all.

Source: Asahi Shimbun, February 17th. (in Japanese)

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