Sunday, November 30, 2014

Air Do bids farewell to Bear Do Dream.

AIRDO [HD/ADO] (d.b.a. Air Do), as planned (Air Do to retire Bear Do Dream on November 30th.), retired its last specially-themed aircraft, Boeing 737-54K JA305K Bear Do Dream, on November 30th after it operated flight HD028, service from Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC] to Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT].

Boeing 737-54K JA305K Bear Do Dream takes off. (Photo: Norio Hasegawa/Air Do)

The final flight into the company's homeland of Hokkaido was HD025, service from Haneda, which carried 124 passengers. The return leg to Tokyo became the ultimate flight, which carried a full load of 126 passengers and departed at 1609 JST, nine minutes behind published time. Air Do's mascot Bear Do was present at the gate to shake passengers' hands and all on board received a last flight certificate along with memorabilia. 

Bear Do Dream inaugurated service on March 24th, 2011 as the Hokkaido carrier's second special livery airplane after Boeing 737-54K JA8196 Bear Do, which entered service on April 6th, 2009 and was retired on March 14th earlier this year (Air Do retires 'Bear Do'; five Boeing 737-500s remain.). The aircraft flew approximately 630,000 passengers over three years and eight months until its retirement today. Manufactured on September 21st, 1998, it was originally delivered to then-All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] subsidiary Air Nippon [EL/ANK]. After a maintenance check and repaint, it will return to service with ANA Wings [EH/AKX].

Air Do's narrow-body fleet is currently transitioning from 126-seat 737-500s to 144-seat 737-700s, both supplied from ANA, subsidiary of ANA Holdings, which controls 14% of the Hokkaido-based carrier. Bear Do Dream's departure will leave the fleet with two 767-300ERs, two 767-300s, six 737-700s, and three 737-500s, with the remaining trio of 'Classic' Baby Boeings slated for replacement by an identical number of 737-700s by January 2016.

Source: Aviation Wire, November 30th. (in Japanese)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Jetstar Japan to receive 11 billion JPY from JAL and Qantas.

On November 28th, Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] and Qantas Airways [QF/QFA] announced that they would each inject 3.5 billion JPY into Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP], and are each prepared to give another 2 billion JPY if necessary. The loss-making Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA]-based LCC already intends to exercise that option, for a total of 11 billion JPY. Voting-rights-based, the Japanese unit of the successful Australian LCC is 33.3% controlled by JAL, 33.3% by Qantas, 16.7% by Mitsubishi, and 16.7% by Century Tokyo Leasing.

Airbus A320-232(SL) JA08JJ taxies at Narita. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

In October last year, after Jetstar Japan posted a 8.8 billion JPY net loss for the full year ending on June 30th, 2013, the two biggest shareholders agreed to inject a sum of 11 billion JPY (Jetstar Japan releases Summer 2014 schedule.) to keep it afloat. However, the LCC posted another 11.1 billion JPY net loss for its third full year ending on June 30th, 2014 (Jetstar Japan lost 11.1 billion JPY in its third year.) and shareholder equity had plummeted to 400 million JPY, which led to the second injection.

Jetstar Japan cited repeated delays in setting up its second hub at Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] as the main reason. Insufficient number of trained maintenance personnel forced them to delay the launch five times, with as many as five to six of the 18 Airbus A320s sitting idle at Narita, bringing down aircraft utilization. Deliveries of new aircraft were also put off. Planned regional international routes also had to be postponed. These coupled with a depreciated JPY and high fuel prices led to increased costs well exceeding increased revenue.

However, pieces of the original recipe are finally becoming reality, with the second hub at Kansai finally launched in June (Jetstar Japan launches Kansai hub.), and Jetstar Japan officially announcing its intention to launch international flights from Spring 2015. Regional destinations that are within reach of their A320s are being considered, with Taiwan and the Philippines at the top of the list. Partnership-wise, American Airlines [AA/AAL] became the second carrier after JAL to code-share, starting from October 26th covering five routes from Narita, and Qantas is finally expected to start code-sharing from sometime in January 2015 on all nine routes from Narita. Fleet-wise, expansion has been restarted, with the 20th A320 to arrive in December.

Source: NHK, November 28th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, November 28th. (in Japanese) 

*Edited/updated on December 3rd, 2014.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Peach announces Okinawa – Hong Kong.

On September 25th, Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] announced their intention to start four-times-weekly Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH] – Hong Kong [HKG/VHHH] service on February 21st, 2015. It will be operated on Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays using 180-seat Airbus A320s.

Airbus A320-214 JA801P lines up for takeoff from Runway 19R at New Chitose Airport near Sapporo on a clear October afternoon. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

This becomes the seventh international route for the Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB]-based LCC, which only opened its second hub at Naha on July 19th (Peach launches Naha hub; but Naha – Ishigaki axed.). It will be the fourth direct link from Naha after Fukuoka [FUK/RJFF], Kansai, and Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP]. The last time a Japanese carrier flew the route was 12 years ago. Peach already operates double-daily flights to Hong Kong from Kansai.

Flight Schedule (effective February 21st through March 28th, 2015):
Naha – Hong Kong NEW 4 weekly with A320-200.
MM965 OKA 1645 – 1830 HKG 320 Mo
MM965 OKA 1530 – 1715 HKG 320 We
MM965 OKA 1525 – 1710 HKG 320 Sa
MM965 OKA 1305 – 1450 HKG 320 Su
MM964 HKG 1235 – 1550 OKA 320 Mo/We/Sa/Su
Prices will range from 7,180 JPY to 33,580 JPY for a one-way unbundled Happy Peach fare, while one-way Happy Peach Plus, which includes one baggage allowance, free seat selection, and no charge for flight change, will range from 9,980 JPY to 41,580 JPY. Tickets will go on sale tomorrow on November 26th.

The new route also becomes the first to be launched after Peach encountered pilot shortages which caused widely-publicized travel disruptions (Peach outlines Summer 2014 mass cancellations.) this past summer. Their 14th A320 was delivered earlier this month, and Peach will start expanding again cautiously, on top of what was already a conservative plan to add only three aircraft each year through 2016.

Reference: Nikkei Shimbun, November 24th. (in Japanese)
Reference: Aviation Wire, November 25th. (in Japanese) 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Is the new AirAsia Japan delaying launch?

It was July 1st when the reincarnation of AirAsia Japan (Mk II) was boldly announced (AirAsia Japan is officially reborn; first flight June 2015.) with non-airline partners Octave Japan Infrastructure Fund owning 19%, Rakuten 18%, Noevir Holdings 9%, and Alpen 5% with an initial capital totaling 7 billion JPY, together with AirAsia's [AK/AXM] 49%. First flight was told to take place as early as July 2015 from Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG] (AirAsia Japan selects Nagoya Chubu Centrair.) initially with domestic routes. But nothing has been heard from them since.

However, in their Third Quarter 2014 report, the AirAsia Group announced plans to take only five Airbus A320s in 2015, with four earmarked for Thai AirAsia [FD/AIQ] and a single aircraft for AirAsia (Malaysia). The southeast Asia market is now suffering from overcapacity and most of AirAsia Group's airlines are incurring losses or significantly reduced profits, though still performing better than most competitors. In the previous version of its 2015 fleet plan, which was released in August as Second Quarter 2014 earnings were reported, the LCC group had additionally earmarked three A320s each for AirAsia India [I5/IAD] and Japan. Does this  mean AirAsia Japan (Mk II) will not take delivery of any aircraft, and thus not launch operations next year? Or are some of the Malaysian unit's surplus A320s coming over?

Airbus A320-216 HS-ABO of Thai AirAsia taxies at Bangkok's Don Mueang. All of AirAsia's affiliates are incurring losses or significantly reduced profits. With aircraft for AirAsia Japan no longer in the orderbooks for 2015, has the launch been delayed? (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

And on November 22nd, Skymark Airlines' [BC/SKY] President and CEO Shinichi Nishikubo disclosed that AirAsia Group was indeed one of a handful of carriers they were negotiating with for a partnership. Japan's third largest carrier looked for new tie-ups as their profitability rapidly deteriorated (Skymark posts 5.7 billion JPY loss for 1Q FY2014.) amid a depreciated JPY, heavy competition with LCCs as well as full-service carriers, and costs related to the introduction of the A330 (Skymark Airlines inaugurates Airbus A330 service.) and now-canceled A380 (Skymark's Airbus A380 order in jeopardy.). But Mr. Nishikubo has narrowed down its potential partner to Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] (Skymark in talks with JAL for broad tie-up.), and told that talks with AirAsia Group started in August and only ended earlier this month.

Actually, it is now known that Hiroshi Mikitani, President of AirAsia Japan's (Mk II) key partner Rakuten, was on the verge of acquiring a majority stake in Skymark earlier this spring. However, the deal fell through when Mr. Mikitani found out about Skymark's troubles regarding the A380 order, a few months before that news came to light. So, AirAsia Japan (Mk II) probably had some inside knowledge about Skymark's financial state and outlook. "We will start from a non-Tokyo city, but Tokyo is a very big market that cannot be omitted," told Yoshinori Odagiri, CEO of AirAsia Japan (Mk I & II), who has seemed confident in obtaining slots at heavily-regulated Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT]. Or had they drawn a picture of taking over Skymark from the first place (Is AirAsia considering a Skymark takeover?)? 

With the government's target to bring 20 million visitors to Japan by 2020 when the Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics take place, opening up airspace over metropolitan Tokyo, which could potentially create 50 or so more slot-pairs at Haneda, is seriously being discussed. But the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) along with the government so far seem unwilling to distribute the slots to LCCs, calling it "prized properties that belong to the Japanese public." AirAsia is counting on Mr. Mikitani, who is a member of the government's Economic Revitalization Committee and has personal relationships with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to receive slots at the preferred Tokyo airport near downtown.

Nagoya is a huge metropolitan area that could potentially become a home for an LCC. However, the market is underdeveloped and with people too used to the super-efficient Shinkansen and hometown carrier All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA], it will take a few years for locals to accept AirAsia Japan (Mk II). Further, the battle has actually already begun, with Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP] having entered the market and expanding (Jetstar Japan starts three routes from Kumamoto.), and ANA retaliating by slashing fares to match them on competing routes. AirAsia Japan (Mk II) probably knows more than anyone else that domestic low-fare is difficult to make it work without a hub in Tokyo, so if prospects of getting Haneda slots diminish, there may not be an incentive to relaunch the Japanese unit after all. Let's wait and see...

Reference: Business Journal, September 10th. (in Japanese)
Reference: Sankei Shimbun, November 23rd. (in Japanese)
Reference: Centre for Aviation, November 24th. (in English)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fuji Dream loads Mount Fuji scenic flight.

Fuji Dream Airlines [JH/FDA] will operate a one-off, one-way service from Nagoya/Komaki [NKM/RJNA] to Shizuoka [FSZ/RJNS] on December 3rd. Dubbed Mount Fuji Scenic Flight, the charter operation will depart at 0700 JST, fly over Yaezu City, then approach near Mount Fuji, and move over to Fujinomiya City, before arriving into the World Heritage Site's nearest commercial airport around 0800.

Embraer ERJ170-100STD (E170) JA01FJ Dream Red resting between flights at FDA's Shizuoka hub. Will their ninth aircraft, slated to arrive in March 2015, replace their first? Or will they add new routes? (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

A 76-seat Embraer ERJ170 (E170) will be assigned, however, FDA is capping the passenger number for the flight to just 19, with each passenger to be allocated an entire row (four seats) to provide the best views of Japan's tallest mountain.

Flight Schedule:
Komaki – Shizuoka charter with E170.
JH5071 NKM 0700 – 0800 FSZ E70 *Dec/3 only.

Price is set at 9,800 JPY per person, including a 1,000 JPY QUO prepaid shopping card gift that would be handed out. Tickets went on sale on November 19th at 0900 and was closed on November 21st at 1500. Travelers needed to be either a friend on FDA's Facebook page or an account holder on FDA's website in order to purchase.

Reference: Fuji Dream Airlines @ Facebook, November 17th. (in Japanese)
Reference: FlightLiner, November 19th. (in Japanese)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Skymark in talks with JAL for broad tie-up.

Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] has entered into partnership talks with Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] to help save the troubled third largest domestic carrier, according to a Nikkei report. Both sides confirmed the news, though adding nothing has been finalized yet. Under the plan, effective as early as February 2015, JAL would place its code on most, if not all of Skymark's 36 round-trips from Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] to Fukuoka [FUK/RJFF], Kagoshima [KOJ/RJFK], Kobe [UKB/RJBE], Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH], and Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC] and sell roughly 20% of their seats, generating an estimated annual 8 billion JPY for the cash-strapped airline.

Boeing 737-86N(WL) JA73NX arrives into Narita in the final days at the airport. Skymark closed all operations at Narita on October 25th (Skymark announces Narita closure and Yonago cuts.) in a bid to cut unprofitable routes and concentrate on Haneda. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

However, JAL would not acquire any stakes in Skymark (at least for now), which would allow them to retain a certain degree of independence. "We take great pride that we have been independent without the help of any major carriers, which has enabled us to change the industry significantly," is a phrase that could often be heard from Shinichi Nishikubo, Skymark's President and CEO. But for JAL too, this is a clever compromise.

Firstly, any new investment by JAL would come under heavy scrutiny of the government, according to the notorious (at least to JAL) document issued by the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) on August 10th, 2012 (the 8-10 Paper), which is effective through FY2016. The government's favor of All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] over JAL is partly due to the current Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-controlled regime wanting to portrait the then-Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-led government's massive bailout of JAL from their 2010 bankruptcy, one of the nation's most spectacular corporate failures, a misuse of taxpayer's money. Secondly, JAL wouldn't want to take the risk of investing in a company that could bring on a hefty debt; Airbus is seeking up to 700 million USD in penalties for Skymark's termination of the A380 order (Skymark's Airbus A380 order in jeopardy.).

And lastly, JAL does not want to see ANA increasing the share of Haneda slots any more. Slot-count-wise, JAL controls 40.0% at 184.5 slot-pairs and All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] 37.4% at 172.5 slot-pairs, while Skymark holds 7.8% with 36 slot-pairs. However, if the slots of AIRDO [HD/ADO] (d.b.a. Air Do), Skynet Asia Airways [6J/SNJ] (d.b.a. Solaseed Air), and Star Flyer [7G/SFJ], all of which code-share with ANA throughout their networks and are de facto controlled by Japan's largest carrier (New Star Flyer President is from ANA.), are combined, ANA's share rises to 52.2%. Skymark teaming up with ANA, an idea which the current government favors, would have Japan's largest airline control 60% and JAL 40%. If the JAL/Skymark partnership goes through, JAL could increase the share to 47.8%, which would maintain close competition.

A flock of JAL's Boeings at Haneda. How much competition will remain after the JAL/Skymark partnership? Are we be going back to the ANA/JAL duopoly era? (Photo: Aviation Wire)

After the report, Skymark's stocks soared 50 JPY, over 25%, to 245 JPY on November 21st. But reportedly, the JCAB is already reluctant to approve the cooperation. Although no transaction of cash would be involved, it seems that the regulator sees the partnership as a bailed-out airline still under government supervision virtually aiding another Haneda-based carrier to strengthen its competitiveness. If there's an ownership change exceeding 20% of an airline that controls slots at Haneda, those would need to be relinquished and JCAB would redistribute them. Even just starting a code-share at the heavily-regulated airport requires various approvals. Mr. Nishikubo said "We don't see a reason for them (JCAB) to say no."

Skymark is predicting its worst ever financial record for FY2014 (Skymark braces for 13.7 billion JPY loss in FY2014.), reversing a previous forecast for a 354 million JPY net profit. Total assets stood at 77.5 billion JPY, down 1.3 billion JPY from March this year, while capital-to-asset ration decreased from 56.2% in FY2013 to 49.7%. Cash reserves dwindled to 4.5 billion JPY, down 2.5 billion JPY from just six months ago. They have cited increased costs due to the introduction of the Airbus A330s (Skymark Airlines inaugurates Airbus A330 service.) and now-canceled A380s, continued depreciation of the JPY, fuel costs remaining high, and intensified competition with the LCCs as the primary reasons. Skymark has found itself caught in between the majors and LCCs.

Termination of the A380 order in July and the European planemaker's subsequent seeking for up to 700 million USD in penalties only made their outlook worse. "We are still negotiating to reduce that figure. But we hope to reach an agreement as early as possible," said Mr. Nishikubo (Skymark hopes to settle Airbus A380 penalty in October.). Talks regarding an investment by Malaysia-based AirAsia Group (Is AirAsia considering a Skymark takeover?) had collapsed by the end of summer. With JCAB keeping a close eye and the current government favoring ANA, the JAL partnership probably would not go through easily. But Skymark is fast running out of cash and needs new sources of revenue as quickly as possible. In any case, Skymark may need to forfeit a lot of their independence as Japan's third force.

Reference: Nikkei Shimbun, November 21st. (in Japanese)
Reference: Nikkei Shimbun, November 21st. (in Japanese)
Reference: Aviation Wire, November 21st. (in Japanese) 

*Edited/updated on November 23rd, 2014.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Airbus A350 makes first appearance in Japan.

On November 19th, Airbus Industrie brought the A350 to Japan for the first time as part of the new airplane's 11-day Asian Demo Tour. A350-941 F-WWYB, the fifth experimental aircraft, landed at Tokyo/Haneda's [HND/RJTT] Runway 34L at 1525 JST after a short hop from Seoul/Gimpo [GMP/RKSS]. Fitted with 42 business (four abreast; 1-2-1) and 223 economy class (nine abreast; 3-3-3) seats, this is the second test airframe to have a fully functional passenger cabin.

JAL staff welcome the first arrival of Airbus A350-941 F-WWYB at Haneda. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] welcomed the European planemaker's newest product at their Haneda hangars, where it will be shown off to related personnel and media. A sightseeing flight will be operated on November 20th for representatives from JAL, Japanese suppliers, and media. It will leave Haneda on November 21st for Hanoi/Noi Bai [HAN/VVNB], followed by visits to Bangkok/Suvarnabhumi [BKK/VTBS] and Kuala Lumpur/International [KUL/WMKK], before returning to Toulouse [TLS/LFBO].

On October 7th, 2013, JAL announced their historical first order (excluding the A300s that merger partner Japan Air System [JD/JAS] acquired) with Airbus for up to 56 A350s. Japan's second largest carrier has 18 A350-900s and 13 larger A350-1000s on firm order, along with 25 options, with deliveries starting in 2019 to replace the entire Boeing 777 fleet by 2025. JAL's 777 fleet currently consists of 13 777-300ERs, seven 777-300s, 11 777-200ERs, and 13 777-200s (three more to be retired in FY2014) (JAL retires first Boeing 777.). 25 787-8s (15 already delivered) and 20 787-9s will also help replace the 777 fleet.

The A350 received airworthiness type certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on September 30th, followed by an approval for 370-minute ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engined OperationS) on October 15th. It became the first airliner to be approved for ETOPS beyond 180 minutes before entry into service. On November 12th, it received certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Common type rating for pilot training between the A330 has also been granted. First delivery to launch customer Qatar Airways [QR/QTR] is expected before the end of the year.

Reference: Airbus, November 17th. (in English)
Reference: Traicy, November 19th. (in Japanese)
Reference: Aviation Wire, November 19th. (in Japanese)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

JTA announces First Sunrise Flight from Nagoya.

Japan Transocean Air [NU/JTA], together with 70% shareholder Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] and Japan's largest travel agency JTB, is offering World Heritage Mt. Fuji First Sunrise Flight 2015, to be operated on January 1st, 2015 from Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG]. It will be operated as part of the airport's 10th anniversary series of events, and JTB will be responsible for marketing the packaged tour.

Boeing 737-4Q3 JA8939 Jimbei Jet and 737-446 JA8992 Sakura Jimbei depart JTA's hub at Naha Airport, Okinawa. Which will be assigned to the flight? (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Planned to be operated by one of JTA's Jimbei Jets, Boeing 737-4Q3 JA8939 Jimbei Jet or 737-446 JA8992 Sakura Jimbei (Encounter Japan Transocean Air's 'Sakura Jimbei'!), the flight will depart Chubu Centrair on the morning of new year's day between 0530 and 0600 JST, set out on a scenic flight to Mt. Fuji to view the sunrise, and return to the same airport by 0730. Limited to 48 groups, with up to three persons per group, the tour will cost 29,000 JPY per person for a group of three, 39,000 JPY per person for a group of two, and 71,000 JPY per person for solo participants.

Reference: JTB. (in Japanese)
Reference: FlightLiner, November 17th. (in Japanese)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Star Flyer offering free tickets for First Sunrise Flight.

Star Flyer [7G/SFJ] will invite 35 pairs (or a group of up to three) to their First Sunrise Flight on January 1st, 2015, dubbed Sunrise Flight 2015. In October, the Kitakyushu [KKJ/RJFR]-based carrier won first place in the domestic long-distance travel category for the Japan Customer Satisfaction Index (JCSI), which is published annually by the Council for Service Productivity & Innovation for Growth (SPRING), and the airline says the flight is an expression of gratitude. It has won the award for six consecutive years.

Airbus A320-214(SL) JA21MC City of Kitakyushu is pushed back at Yamaguchi-Ube on the inaugural day (Star Flyer launches Yamaguchi-Ube.) of the service. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Sunrise Flight 2015, to be operated by one of their Airbus A320s, will depart Kitakyushu around 0600 JST and fly over Kyushu including Kagoshima's iconic Sakurajima volcano before returning to the airport around 0745. Application began on November 10th and will continue to December 1st through Star Flyer's website or by post, and winners will be contacted by the airline before December 8th. All winners will need to arrange their own transportation to arrive at the airport between 0445 and 0530. Seating will be assigned by the airline.

Reference: Star Flyer, November 9th. (in Japanese)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Spring Japan considering Chongqing and Wuhan.

Spring Airlines Japan [IJ/SJO] is planning to launch international flights to China from Spring 2015, according to Wang Wei, Chairman of the airline, in an interview carried out by Kyodo Press. Four Chinese destinations are currently being considered by the fledgling Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA]-based LCC for next year, including Chongqing [CKG/ZUCK] and Wuhan [WUH/ZHHH].

Boeing 737-86N(WL) JA02GR arrives back at the airline's Narita hub. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

"There's a huge yet-to-be-tapped market from China to Japan," said Mr. Wang, who added "Japan is the most tourism resource-rich neighbor, but China's number of visitors to Japan is still below (South) Korea." Mr. Wang also revealed that they intend to open around 10 Chinese routes from their hub at Narita in the coming years, with eyes especially on secondary Chinese cities not facing the sea. The current fleet of three 189-seat Boeing 737-800s will be expanded to 20 by the end of 2017.

Spring Airlines Japan only began flying this August initially with domestic routes (Spring Airlines Japan commences operations.) linking Narita with Hiroshima [HIJ/RJOA], Saga [HSG/RJFS], and Takamatsu [TAK/RJOT]. It is the Japanese unit of China's largest LCC Spring Airlines [9C/CQH], which already operates to the big cities of Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] and Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC], as well as the secondary destinations of Ibaraki [IBR/RJAF], Saga, and Takamatsu.

Reference: Oita Godo Shimbun, November 8th. (in Japanese)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

ANA loads annual First Sunrise Flights for 2015.

All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA], along with rival Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] (JAL loads 2015 First Sunrise Flights.), will also operate its annual First Sunrise Flights on January 1st, 2015. ANA, which has flown the service for 14 years, is who kicked off what has now become a tradition unique to Japanese airlines. Two flights from Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] and another from Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG] will be offered to ANA Mileage Club (AMC) members.

Boeing 787-9 JA830A with TOMODACHI Initiative decals leaps from Osaka's Itami Airport for a short hop to Tokyo's Haneda. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

The Haneda flights will be operated by their brand-new Boeing 787-9 (18 Premium Class and 377 economy) and an international-configured 777-200ER (35 business and 271 economy). Passengers will need to arrive at the airport before 0430 JST. They will depart at 0535 and arrive back at 0800 after flying near Mount Fuji and seeing the sunrise. Meanwhile, the flight from Chubu Centrair, the aircraft type of which has not yet been decided, will depart at 0600 and arrive back around 0745, after flying near the highest mountain in the nation to see the sunrise.

The 787-9 flight will go on sale at 1000 JST on November 19th, followed by the 777-200ER flight the following day, and the Chubu Centrair flight on November 21st. A window pair-seat for Premium Class/business class will be set at 100,000 JPY and economy at 90,000 JPY for the Haneda flights. Other seat-pairs will be offered at 70,000 JPY for Premium Class/business class and 60,000 JPY for economy. Meanwhile, the Chubu Centrair flight will offer all seat-pairs at 85,000 JPY. In-flight service will include a light meal, a baumkuchen, new-year Japanese Sake (juice for children), and a flight certificate.

Reference: All Nippon Airways, November 4th. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Air Do to retire Bear Do Dream on November 30th.

AIRDO [HD/ADO] (d.b.a. Air Do) will retire its last special livery aircraft, Boeing 737-54K JA305K Bear Do Dream, on November 30th. The last revenue flight is currently planned to be HD028, service from Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC] to Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] that will depart at 1600 JST. 

Boeing 737-54K JA305K Bear Do Dream arrives at Sendai. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Bear Do Dream inaugurated service on March 24th, 2011 as the Hokkaido airline's second special-themed airplane after Boeing 737-54K JA8196 Bear Do, which entered service on April 6th, 2009, and was retired on March 14th this year (Air Do retires 'Bear Do'; five Boeing 737-500s remain.). After retirement, it is expected to be returned to lessor All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) and re-enter service with subsidiary ANA Wings [EH/AKX].

Air Do has released the schedule of Bear Do Dream for its last three days of operations, where it will make its last appearance at Fukushima [FKS/RJSF], Kushiro [KUH/RJCK], and Toyama [TOY/RJNT] before its ultimate flight.

Bear Do Dream Flight Schedule for November 28th:
HD112 CTS 0830 – 0955 FKS
HD113 FKS 1025 – 1145 CTS
HD120 CTS 1215 – 1350 TOY
HD121 TOY 1420 – 1550 CTS
HD114 CTS 1625 – 1750 FKS
HD115 FKS 1820 – 1940 CTS
HD036 CTS 2010 – 2150 HND

Bear Do Dream Flight Schedule for November 29th and 30th:
HD071 HND 0745 – 0920 KUH
HD072 KUH 0950 – 1140 HND
HD025 HND 1350 – 1525 CTS
HD028 CTS 1600 – 1740 HND

Air Do's narrowbody fleet is currently transitioning from 126-seat 737-500s to 144-seat 737-700s, both supplied from ANA, subsidiary of ANA Holdings, which controls 14% of the Hokkaido-based carrier. Bear Do Dream's departure will leave the fleet with two 767-300ERs, two 767-300s, six 737-700s, and three 737-500s, with the remaining trio of 'Classic' Baby Boeings slated for replacement by an identical number of 737-700s by January 2016.

Reference: AIRDO @ Facebook. (in Japanese)

Monday, November 10, 2014

JAL loads 2015 First Sunrise Flights.

Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] will operate its traditional First Sunrise Flights again on January 1st, 2015. These special early-morning flights place passengers in the vicinity of Mt. Fuji just as the sun is starting to come up on the first day of the new year. A flight each will depart from and return to Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] and Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT]. JALPAK will sell the tickets, with the Narita flight to go on sale on November 11th and the Haneda flight on November 12th, both at 1030 JST.

Boeing 767-346/ER JA610J comes into Narita still wearing the Arc of the Sun livery, which was designed by Landor Associates when JAL and Japan Air System [JD/JAS] merged. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

The Narita flight, appropriately numbered JL2015, will depart at 0545, flying off the coast of Choshi, Chiba Prefecture to see the sunrise, then moving on to Mt. Fuji and Miyakejima, before returning to Narita around 0745. It will be operated by an international-configured Boeing 767-300ER, accommodating 30 business and 207 economy class seats. Window seats for a couple will be set at 80,000 JPY for business and 65,000 JPY for economy, and 60,000 JPY for an over-wing window seat-pair in economy. Middle section seats will also be sold, with a business seat priced at 25,000 JPY and an economy seat at 20,000 JPY, and 19,000 JPY for an over-wing middle section seat.

Meanwhile, the Haneda flight, JL1511, will depart at 0545 and fly near Mt. Fuji to view the sunrise, then cruise over Izu-oshima, before arriving back into Haneda around 0745. A JAL Sky Next (JAL's first Sky Next 777 enters service.) 767-300 configured with 42 Class J and 219 economy seats will operate the flight. Window seats for a couple will be set at 81,000 JPY for Class J and 72,000 JPY for economy, and 67,000 JPY for an over-wing window seat-pair in economy. Middle section seats will be sold as well, with a Class J seat priced at 27,000 JPY and an economy seat at 22,000 JPY, and 21,000 JPY for an over-wing middle section seat.

JAL will issue a flight certificate and serve traditional Osechi bento (new year cuisine lunch box) along with a red and white bun with fillings. Japan's flag carrier has been operating First Sunrise Flights from Narita since 2009 and from Haneda since 2010.

Reference: Japan Airlines, November 10th. (in Japanese)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Vanilla Air inaugurates Hong Kong.

On November 2nd, Vanilla Air [JW/VNL] launched thrice-weekly service to Hong Kong [HKG/VHHH] from their hub at Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA]. Frequency will gradually increase, becoming daily from February 1st and then double daily from February 21st, coinciding with the delivery of their seventh and eighth 180-seat Airbus A320s. One of the two flights will run on a red-eye schedule.

Airbus A320-216(SL) JA04VA departs Narita for the first flight to Hong Kong. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

The inaugural flight to Hong Kong, flight JW299, departed at 0905 JST, five minutes before published time with a load of 175 passengers (including two infants), five cabin attendants, and two pilots. A320-216(SL) JA04VA, configured with 180 seats, was assigned. The first return leg from Hong Kong, flight JW300, had 146 bookings. One-way fares start from 8,000 JPY for a ticket with no baggage allowance (Simple Vanilla) and 9,500 JPY for an inclusive ticket with 20 kilograms of baggage allowance plus free seat selection (Komi-komi Vanilla).

Flight Schedule:
Narita – Hong Kong NEW 3 weekly with A320-200.
JW311 NRT 0750 – 1150 HKG 32A Tu *2014/Nov/2 - Dec/31.
JW311 NRT 0945 – 1345 HKG 32A Th *2014/Nov/2 - Dec/31.
JW311 NRT 0910 – 1310 HKG 32A Su *2014/Nov/2 - Dec/31.
JW311 NRT 0735 – 1150 HKG 32A Tu *2015/Jan/1 - 31.
JW311 NRT 0930 – 1345  HKG 32A Th *2015/Jan/1 - 31.
JW311 NRT 0855 – 1310 HKG 32A Su *2015/Jan/1 - 31.
JW312 HKG 1245 – 1740 NRT 32A Tu *2014/Nov/2 - Dec/31.
JW312 HKG 1445 – 1940 NRT 32A Th *2014/Nov/2 - Dec/31.
JW312 HKG 1410 – 1905 NRT 32A Su *2014/Nov/2 - Dec/31.
JW312 HKG 1245 – 1730 NRT 32A Tu *2015/Jan/1 - 31.
JW312 HKG 1445 – 1930 NRT 32A Th *2015/Jan/1 - 31.
JW312 HKG 1410 – 1900 NRT 32A Su *2015/Jan/1 - 31.

Narita – Hong Kong increase from 3 weekly to 1 daily with A320-200. *2015/Feb/1 - 21.
JW311 NRT 0855 – 1310 HKG 32A Mo
JW311 NRT 0735 – 1150 HKG 32A Tu
JW311 NRT 0805 – 1220 HKG 32A We/Fr
JW311 NRT 0930 – 1345 HKG 32A Th
JW311 NRT 0825 – 1240 HKG 32A Sa
JW311 NRT 0855 – 1310 HKG 32A Su
JW312 HKG 1410 – 1900 NRT 32A Mo
JW312 HKG 1245 – 1730 NRT 32A Tu
JW312 HKG 1320 – 1805 NRT 32A We/Fr
JW312 HKG 1445 – 1930 NRT 32A Th
JW312 HKG 1340 – 1825 NRT 32A Sa
JW312 HKG 1410 – 1900 NRT 32A Su

Narita – Hong Kong increase from 1 to 2 daily with A320-200. *2015/Feb/21 - Mar/28.
JW311 NRT 0855 – 1310 HKG 32A Mo
JW311 NRT 0735 – 1150 HKG 32A Tu
JW311 NRT 0805 – 1220 HKG 32A We/Fr
JW311 NRT 0930 – 1345 HKG 32A Th
JW311 NRT 0825 – 1240 HKG 32A Sa
JW311 NRT 0855 – 1310 HKG 32A Su
JW315 NRT 2100 – 0155(+1) HKG 32A Mo
JW315 NRT 2055 – 0135(+1) HKG 32A Tu
JW315 NRT 2055 – 0115(+1) HKG 32A We/Th/Fr/Sa/Su
JW310 HKG 0200 – 0645 NRT 32A Mo/Fr/Sa/Su *From 2015/Feb/22.
JW310 HKG 0220 – 0705 NRT 32A Tu/We/Th *From 2015/Feb/22.
JW312 HKG 1410 – 1900 NRT 32A Mo
JW312 HKG 1245 – 1730 NRT 32A Tu
JW312 HKG 1320 – 1805 NRT 32A We/Fr
JW312 HKG 1445 – 1930 NRT 32A Th
JW312 HKG 1340 – 1825 NRT 32A Sa
JW312 HKG 1410 – 1900 NRT 32A Su

"Demand for travel from Hong Kong to Japan is very strong. It's been showing double-digit growth, and there is a 20% increase so far this year compared to last year, with the total number probably falling around 800,000 passengers. On the other hand, the number of travelers from Japan to Hong Kong was 1.2 million in 2012, but decreased to 1 million in 2013. I think we can contribute in bringing that figure up," said Tomonori Ishii, President of Vanilla Air. "Our target load factor is 80%. Regarding distribution channels, we expect 80% would be sold directly by us, while the remaining 20% would be through travel agencies. The latter is especially important during off-peak periods. We're also improving our smartphone application," he added.

The fledgling Narita-based carrier becomes the first LCC to serve Hong Kong from the airport. The Tokyo – Hong Kong market remained unpenetrated by LCCs until November 2013, when Hong Kong Express Airways [UO/HKE] (d.b.a. HK Express) launched Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] – Hong Kong. All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] operates two daily from Narita and one from Haneda, Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] flies one each from Haneda and Narita, and Cathay Pacific Airways [CX/CPA] operates five from Narita and two from Haneda. Delta Air Lines [DL/DAL] ended their single daily Narita service on October 24th. But now, HK Express is adding a second Haneda flight from November 18th as well as a Narita flight from December 8th, and ANA is launching a second Haneda flight from December 20th (ANA adds Haneda – Hong Kong midnight flight.).

In other news, Vanilla Air is starting to see improved load factors. Their September load factors for international was 87.5% (37,818 out of 43,200 seats) and domestic stood at 87.8% (80,572 out of 91,800 seats), just a few points lower than their record 90.1% (40,238 out of 44,640 seats) and 92.1% (96,946 out of 105,220 seats), respectively, for August, the peak summer vacation travel season in Japan. Their load factors before that were 83.3% for international (36,680 out of 44,280 seats) and 77.5% for domestic (79,491 out of 102,592 seats) in July, when they launched Amami [ASJ/RJKA] service (Vanilla Air launches Narita – Amami.), and 72.7% (31,388 out of 43,200 seats) and 58.7% (32,622 out of 55,600 seats), respectively, in June.

The next city on Vanilla Air's plans is Kaohsiung [KHH/RCKH], Taiwan's second largest city, to be added on February 1st next year (Vanilla Air works out details for Hong Kong and Kaohsiung.).

Reference: Aviation Wire, September 30th. (in Japanese)
Reference: Aviation Wire, October 31st. (in Japanese)
Reference: Aviation Wire, November 2nd. (in Japanese)