Friday, July 11, 2014

Air Do celebrates 20 million passengers.

AIRDO (HD/ADO) (d.b.a. Air Do) carried the 20 millionth passenger on July 9th. A family on board flight HD016, service from Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) to Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT), became the privileged guest, receiving a Bear Do stuffed doll and an Air Do model airplane, along with memorabilia signed by the staff.
Boeing 737-54K JA300K takes off from Haneda. All remaining 737-500s will be withdrawn from service by January 2016, replaced by 737-700s sourced from minority-owner ANA. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

The Sapporo-based carrier reached the milestone 15 years and seven months after launching operations on December 20th, 1998 with three round-trips between Haneda and New Chitose. They surpassed 5 million passengers on August 1st, 2005 and 10 million on November 12th, 2008. As part of the campaign, 20 million points will be given away for splitting between members of the My AIRDO frequent-flyer program (FFP), depending on the number of times flown between September 1st and November 30th.

Air Do was a child of Japan's deregulation, along with Skymark Airlines (BC/SKY) and Skynet Asia Airways (LQ/SNJ) (now operating as Solaseed Air). It was one of the first to try adopting the LCC model with no use of jet-bridges and eliminating most in-flight services. Although targeting 50% lower fares than All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA), Japan Air System (JD/JAS), or Japan Airlines (JL/JAL), the difference became 20-30% after higher-than-expected start-up costs, outsourcing of ground handling to JAL, as well as contracting JAL for aviation expertise.
Air Do celebrated 20 million passengers at the gate at Sapporo's New Chitose. (Photo: Air Do)

However, its reservations system was notoriously inconvenient, as tickets could only be booked through their call center and payment was only accepted at their office or the airport, and whenever the airline ran promotional fares, the call center couldn't handle enough calls. No FFP was offered, no package tours were offered (critical in Japan), and coupled with the three major carriers slashing fares, Air Do's load factors were around 40-60% for 1999. In a controversial bid to lure cigarette lovers, Air Do introduced smoking seats in December 2000, however, it lasted less than two months. In June 2002, it filed for bankruptcy protection.

A comprehensive partnership was signed with ANA in February 2003, which led the restructuring (and transformation) of Air Do into a feeder carrier for ANA. Now owned 14% by ANA Holdings, Air Do flies two Boeing 767-300ERs, two 767-300s, five 737-700s, and four 737-500s connecting Haneda with Sapporo as well as secondary cities of Hokkaido, and Sapporo with secondary cities mostly in east Japan.

Reference: Air Do, July 9th. (in Japanese)
Reference: Air Do @ Facebook (in Japanese)
Reference: Aviation Wire, July 10th. (in Japanese)

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