Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Peach Airbus A320 narrowly avoids crash at Okinawa.

On April 28th, Peach Aviation's (MM/APJ) flight MM252, service from Ishigaki (ISG/ROIG) to Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH), made a narrow escape as it descended too early and came within just 75 meters (248 feet) above sea level while coming in to land at the Okinawan capital.

Flying with 53 passengers, four flight attendants, and two cockpit crew (Argentine Captain and Japanese First Officer), Airbus A320-214 JA802P was approaching Naha when the pilot believed air traffic control (ATC) was telling him to land already when they were still in fact seven kilomteres north of the airport, putting the aircraft into a premature dive. Visibility was poor with rain and thick low clouds, and what could have been a serious accident was averted by the aircraft's ground proximity warning system, which prompted the crew to make a sharp climb. It made another approach and landed safely at Naha at 1210, local time, 30 minutes later than schedule, without any injuries.

Subsequent inspections revealed no abnormalities with the Airbus narrowbody. As a result, MM107/108, a round-trip from Kansai to Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC), and MM111/112, a round-trip from Kansai to Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA), were canceled.

Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) labelled this a 'serious incident', adding that the aircraft was in a "dangerous situation as it could have crashed into the sea." The accident-investigating arm of Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) sent three officials to Peach's headquarters at Osaka/Kansai (KIX/RJBB) to look into the matter. The Captain claims that he mistakenly believed that ATC had directed the airplane to decrease its altitude.

Source: Peach Aviation, April 29th. (PDF; in Japanese)
Source: Nikkei Shimbun, April 29th. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Peach reaches 5 million passengers.

On April 28th, Peach Aviation (MM/APJ) announced that the total number of passengers carried passed 5 million. The Osaka/Kansai (KIX/RJBB)-based LCC commenced operations on March 1st, 2012.
Airbus A320-214 JA805P 'Mariko Jet' arrives at Taipei's Taoyuan Airport. (Photo: Peach)

Peach became the first of the 'Year-Zero LCCs' to achieve the milestone, which took them 26 months. 1 million was reached on November 29th, 2012, 2 million on May 7th, 2013, and 3 million on September 17th, 2013.

The LCC currently operates a dozen Airbus A320s on six international and 10 domestic routes from its Kansai hub. A second base will be launched on July 19th (Peach announces Naha – Fukuoka.) at Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH). Peach is owned 38.67% by ANA Holdings, 33.33% by Hong Kong-based First Eastern Investment Group, and 28.0% by Innovation Network Corporation of Japan.

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

Monday, April 28, 2014

CoachFlyer DL283: NRT - BKK on Delta Air Lines' Boeing 747.

Travel date: November 2013
Flight: DL283
Route: Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) - Bangkok/Suvarnabhumi (BKK/VTBS)
Carrier: Delta Air Lines (DL/DAL)
Aircraft: Boeing 747-451 N672US
Class: Economy
Direct distance: 4,649 km (2,890 miles)
Flight time: 6 hours 6 minutes

Being a weekday during a relatively off-peak travel period, no crowd was seen at Narita Airport (NRT/RJAA), the main international gateway serving Tokyo but situated in neighboring Chiba prefecture. From the train station underground, we strolled to Delta Air Lines' (DL/DAL) counters, located in the North Wing of Terminal 1 along with most other SkyTeam carriers. Having SkyTeam Elite Plus, we had access to the SkyPriority check-in lanes that are offered for Business Elite passengers, and with ample desks open, there was no wait. We had checked-in online on Delta's easy-to-use website the evening before and printed our tickets, but the staff reprinted our boarding passes anyway. Security was also a breeze with SkyPriority lanes, and we were quick through immigrations with just a handful of passengers.
Sistership Boeing 747-451 N674US taxies at Taipei's Taoyuan. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

We headed to the Delta SkyClub, the airline's lounge, located on the fourth floor of Satellite 1. Delta runs another lounge in Satellite 2, and these SkyClubs are shared with SkyTeam partners serving Narita except for Air France (AF/AFR) and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL/KLM), which use the AirFrance Lounge next door, Korean Air (KE/KAL), which has their own KAL Prestige Lounge, and China Airlines (CI/CAL), which still operates from Terminal 2 and runs a Dynasty Lounge there. Unlike the SkyClubs in Delta's homeland, complimentary food was available, ranging from finger bowls of noodles, small slices of sandwiches, sushi-style rolls, plastic cups of fresh vegetables, bite-size cakes as well as congee, western-style soup, and a variety of beverages. After a rest, we went down to the gates five minutes before boarding time.
Delta SkyClub at Narita is much better than those in the U.S.A. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Boarding at Gate 16 was not started until 1810, 20 minutes behind printed boarding time, but no explanation nor apology was given. Looking at the gate, there seemed to be a group of handicapped passengers being assisted for boarding. But the boarding that followed was disorganized. Gate agents called for Business Elite passengers, but when some SkyTeam Elite Plus passengers flying on economy tried to board, one staff rudely yelled "No! Wait! Step back!" Maybe she had a stressful day. So we waited, and they did call for other SkyPriority passengers in a few minutes, but with a huge crowd of economy passengers blocking the way, we weren't able to pass before staff quickly started calling for everyone else. And upon boarding, another dissatisfaction; an agent hurriedly took away our boarding passes and gave us new ones, with new seat assignments. We had reserved the seat three months before, but they changed, again without reason nor apology, and when I tried to ask, they simply forced me to go on as there was still a big crowd behind us.
The revamped economy cabin of our Boeing 747-400. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Sitting down in our new seats, doors were closed at 1859, and push-back started seven minutes later, more than 20 minutes behind our scheduled block-out time of 1845. The four Pratt & Whitney PW4056 engines started to rumble, and we were moving at 1910, heading for the threshold of Runway 16R. However, this is one of the peak departure times of a day, and we had five aircraft waiting in front of us. At 1933, we finally took off from Runway 16R heading southeast, then banking right towards south. Our aircraft for today was Boeing 747-451 N672US, originally delivered to Northwest Airlines (NW/NWA) on July 19th, 1999, and inherited by Delta after completion of their merger in December 2009. Along with 15 other examples, the aircraft received an interior overhaul in 2012, refurbished with new seats equipped with Panasonic's Eco Series Smart Monitors throughout the cabin. It was also reconfigured with 48 Business Elite, 42 Economy Comfort, and 286 economy class seats (376 seats total). 
Originally delivered to Northwest, Delta's Boeing 747-400s are powered by Pratt & Whitney PW4056 engines. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

10 minutes later, Captain Ronald Henning made his cheerful welcome announcement, telling us that our flight would be 6 hours and 5 minutes. On board were 12 cabin crew; three San Francisco (SFO/KSFO)-based Americans, one Narita-based Japanese, and eight Bangkok/Suvarnabhumi (BKK/VTBS)-based Thais. About half an hour into the flight, the seat-belt signs were turned off and the flight attendants began preparing for in-flight service, starting with handing out disposable hot towels. Immigration cards necessary for entering Thailand were handed out at this time as well. 15 minutes later, peanuts and drinks were offered, and dinner followed about an hour and a half into the flight.
The Japanese menu was 'Oyako-don'. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Choice was either 'Oyako-don' (chicken and eggs) with rice or chicken and vegetables on noodles, both served with a salad and a bun. Quality was much better than Delta's (or most other American airlines') food originating from the U.S.A., but it wasn't as good to leave any particular impression. While some cabin attendants were smiling, many others were not and looked more like 'handing out' food rather than serving it. After the trays were collected, duty free started, and soon after, the cabin was dimmed and remained so until one hour prior to arrival. After a day's of travel and a bit of anger caused by the service (or the lack of) especially at the gate, I was tired enough and went off to sleep. Our 'Jumbo Jet' cruised east of Taiwan, flying over South China Sea off the coast near Hong Kong, then entering Vietnam.
Chicken and vegetables served on noodles were probably meant to be the western meal. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

As we traveled above Thailand near Ubon Ratchathani, the lights were turned on and the cabin crew started collecting anything we wished to discard, as well as handing out Thailand's immigration cards to those who hadn't received earlier. As we descended through a clear but sometimes hazy sky, we passed over Nakhon Ratchasima where we banked south, making our final approach. As the suburb lights of Bangkok became visible, we passed over a few motorways, before touching down on Runway 19L at 2339, local time. Suvarnabhumi is located 30 kilometers east of Bangkok in neighboring Samut Prakan province, and the cityscape was not visible at night with this day's hazy air. We taxied to Gate F6 and came to a stop right at 2400, 10 minutes behind schedule. Bangkok is two hours behind Tokyo, making total flight time six hours and six minutes.
The Boeing 747-400's wings. Always beautiful. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Delta is one of four carriers serving the market from Tokyo to Bangkok, with one daily service. All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) and Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) both serve three times daily, once from Narita and twice from Haneda (HND/RJTT), while Thai Airways International (TG/THA), or simply THAI, serves five times daily, three from Narita and two from Haneda. United Airlines (UA/UAL) terminated their service this past March, while Thai AirAsia X (XJ) is expected to enter the market from Bangkok's older airport at Don Mueang (DMK/VTBD) to Narita in July, as well as NokScoot, a joint-venture between Nok Air (DD/NOK) and Scoot (TZ/SCO), shortly after. Delta's flight is timed to connect with their Narita flights to and from the U.S., and with no partner flying the route, they will probably remain in the market, even in these recent times when many U.S. airlines are choosing to overfly Japan. However, with ANA, JAL, and THAI offering an obviously superior product and AirAsia and Nok Air/Scoot groups soon offering lower prices, Delta needs to improve if they would like to continue to get some local traffic feed, and not find itself caught in between them.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

JTA to boost Haneda - Ishigaki with Boeing 767.

On April 24th, Japan Transocean Air (NU/JTA) announced that they will add a second round-trip between Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) and Ishigaki (ISG/ROIG), in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, during the peak summer vacation travel period from July 18th to August 31st. The additional flight will be operated by a Boeing 767 wet-leased from Japan Airlines (JL/JAL).
JTA's Boeing 737-446 JA8999 'SWAL Jet' (retro-jet) in the livery of Southwest Air Lines arrives at Naha. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Frequency increases:
Haneda – Ishigaki from 1 to 2 daily with 763/734.
NU071 HND 0645 – 0940 ISG 734 Daily
NU073 HND 1350 – 1645 ISG 763 Daily *NEW. Operated by JAL. Jul/18 – Aug/31.
NU070 ISG 1030 – 1330 HND 734 Daily
NU076 ISG 1725 – 2020 HND 763 Daily *NEW. Operated by JAL. Jul/18 – Aug/31.

JTA used to operate a Boeing 767 sourced from JAL every summer from 1990 to 1995, mostly on wet-leases. During that period, Boeing 767-346 JA8267 was dry-leased from JAL from May 1992 to March 1993 in full Southwest Air Lines (JTA's former name) livery and 767-246 JA8232 from June 1993 to October 1994 in JTA's earlier color scheme.
JAL Boeing 767-346 JA8268 taxies at Haneda. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Ishigaki Island is the prefecture's third largest island by area, behind Okinawa and Iriomote, and is located only 270 kilometers from Taiwan. Surrounded by crystal clear waters and pristine coral reefs, it has been the most popular diving destination in Japan.

History of JTA can be traced back to 1967, when they were set up as Southwest Air Lines to take over Okinawa's intra-island routes then operated by Air America (AAM). Okinawa was controlled by the U.S.A. after World War II until 1972, and the U.S. military still retains a significant presence due to the island's strategic location in the Pacific. The current name 'Japan Transocean Air' was adopted on July 1st, 1993, and they are presently owned 70.1% by JAL, 12.9% by Okinawa Prefecture, and the remainder by local businesses.

Source: Japan Transocean Air, April 24th. (PDF; in Japanese)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

JAL announces Italy charters from Haneda.

On April 25th, Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) announced that they will operate multiple charter flights between Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) and Italy's Milan/Malpensa (MXP/LIMC) and Rome/Fiumicino (FCO/LIRF) this summer, utilizing one of Haneda's nine unused daytime international slots which have been made available for charters (Haneda to have limited-time daytime international charters.) for a limited time until October 25th. All will be flown with Boeing 787-8s.
Boeing 787-8 JA830J being serviced at Haneda. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Haneda – Italy charters Summer 2014:
Haneda – Milan/Malpensa charter with 788.
JL8829 HND 1600 – 2100 MXP 788 *Jul/2, 4, 16, 18, 30, Aug/1, 15, 29, Sep/12.
JL8820 MXP 1320 – 0800(+1) HND 788 *Jul/17, 19, 31, Aug/2, 16, 30, Sep/13, 27.

Haneda – Rome/Fiumicino charter with 788.
JL8821 HND 1600 – 2105 FCO 788 *Jul/9, 11, 23, 25, Aug/8, 22, Sep/5, 19.
JL8822 FCO 1315 – 0800(+1) HND 788 *Jul/10, 12, 24, 26, Aug/7, 9, 23, Sep/6, 20.

Flights beyond August are subject to government approval. Italy has been Japan's largest European market not served by a Japanese airline since JAL suspended flights to Milan and Rome, which were operated with 747-400s, at the end of September 2010 when the airline was restructuring. This left the market all to Alitalia (AZ/AZA), whose only Asian destination is Japan. JAL has since been operating charters every summer between the two countries with 777s, and this time, unlike usual charters, JAL will be offering tickets on their own website as well, along with package tours sold through travel agencies. Miles can also be redeemed on these flights.

JAL often operates charters to check out if demands warrant a scheduled service. As more Dreamliners are delivered, Italy is probably one of the candidate destinations JAL is willing to resume regular flights to. According to a survey carried out by Japanese travel website AB Road, Italy was the most popular 'want-to-visit' outbound destination for the Japanese in 2013.

Source: Japan Airlines, April 25th. (in Japanese) 

*Post edited/updated on April 27th.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Skymark loads seasonal Sendai - Okinawa service.

On April 23rd, Skymark Airlines (BC/SKY) announced adjustments to their Summer 2014 schedule, including a new seasonal once-daily service between Sendai (SDJ/RJSS) and Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) to be operated from August 9th through September 15th. Flights to the largest Ryukyu city will also be increased from Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) and Nagoya/Chubu Centrair (NGO/RJGG) during this period.
Boeing 737-86N(WL) JA73NT moments before rotation at Haneda. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

New routes:
Sendai – Naha NEW 1 daily with 73H/738.
BC583 SDJ 0910 – 1205 OKA 73H/738 Daily *Aug/9 – Sep/15.
BC586 OKA 1820 – 2100 SDJ 73H/738 Daily *Aug/9 – Sep/15.

Frequency increases:
Chubu Centrair – Naha from 2 to up to 4. *Aug/9 – Sep/15. (3 during Jul/18 – Aug/30)
Naha – Miyako (MMY/ROMY) from 2 to 3. *Aug/9 – Sep/15.
Haneda – Naha from 6 to up to 7. *Aug/9 – Sep/15.

In addition, Skymark will also offer a second daily through-fare between Ibaraki (IBR/RJAH) and Naha via Kobe (UKB/RJBE). All of these services will be operated by 177-seat Boeing 737-800s. Abundant with coral reefs and beautiful beaches, Okinawa is a favorite summer vacation destination for the Japanese.

While their 36 prized slots at heavily-regulated Haneda generate roughly 80% of their revenue, Japan's third largest carrier continues to expand at its mini-hub at Kobe and focus cities of Ibaraki (Skymark adds Fukuoka and Nagoya from Ibaraki.), Sendai, and Yonago (YGJ/RJOH) (Skymark expands Yonago, axes Asahikawa and Kumamoto.).

Source: Skymark Airlines, April 23rd. (PDF; in Japanese)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Peach to cancel up to 2,088 flights this summer.

On April 24th, Peach Aviation (MM/APJ) announced at a press conference held at Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) that they are considering canceling up to 2,088 flights from May 19th through October 25th due to pilot shortage.
Airbus A320-214 JA806P taxies for departure at Seoul's Incheon. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

The Osaka/Kansai (KIX/RJBB)-based LCC currently employs 108 cockpit crews, consisting of 52 Captains and 56 First Officers (Copilot), however, eight Captains are absent from work due to health-related issues, and the company's target to recruit 10 additional Captains from outside is not going as planned. Peach denied any reports that in-house training of First Officers to become Captains is failing as well as rumors of flight attendants and maintenance crew shortages.

As a result, they have already decided to cancel 448 flights from May 19th to June 30th, covering flights from Kansai to Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF), Hong Kong (HKG/VHHH), Kagoshima (KOJ/RJFK), Matsuyama (MYJ/RJOM), Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH), Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC), Sendai (SDJ/RJSS), and Seoul/Incheon (ICN/RKSI), offering full refunds as well as re-booking on other Peach-operated flights. It is estimated that 3 billion JPY of revenue would be lost. Final decisions on flights after that date will be announced on April 30th. 2,088 flights equates to 16% of their planned schedule, affecting over 26,000 passengers.

Peach CEO Shinichi Inoue told media "From now on, we will leave more room (for target misses) in recruitment and network plans, so that this never happens again." However, he reiterated that the fledgling LCC is on-track to launch its second hub at Naha on July 19th (Peach announces Naha - Fukuoka.) and its first full year profit is still expected for FY2013, which ended last month, and another year of profit for FY2014 could be reached by increasing aircraft utilization for Winter 2014/2015. Peach currently operates a dozen Airbus A320s, with another to arrive in June, and two more before March 2015.

Crew shortages for Airbus A320s; first Jetstar Japan (GK/JJP) with maintenance crews and now Peach with pilots. In historically Boeing-dominated Japan, recruiting and training staff certified for Airbuses is not catching up with demand. Opting for Boeing 737s for that reason, are executives of Spring Airlines Japan (IJ/SJO) (Spring Airlines Japan to launch services on June 27th.) smiling?

Source: Nikkei Shimbun, April 24th. (in Japanese)
Source: Asahi Shimbun, April 24th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, April 24th. (in Japanese)

ANA offers red-eye Haneda - Okinawa 'Galaxy Flight'.

On April 23rd, All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) announced adjustments to their Summer 2014 schedule, the first version (ANA releases Summer 2014 domestic schedule.) of which was released on January 22nd. The revised timetable sees frequency increases on routes to popular summer destinations, including a new midnight round-trip between Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) and Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) branded 'Galaxy Flight'.
Boeing 777-381 JA754A 'Peace Jet' taxies for departure at Haneda. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Frequency increases:
Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF) – Tsushima (TSJ/RJDT) from 4 to 5 daily. *Aug/8 – 18.
Nagoya/Chubu Centrair (NGO/RJGG) – Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) from 6 to 7 daily. *Jul/18 – Sep/30.
Naha – Ishigaki (ISG/ROIG) from 8 to 9 daily. *Jul/18 – Aug/31.
Sendai (SDJ/RJSS) – New Chitose from 4 to up to 5. *Jul/3 – Aug/31.
Haneda – Naha from 10 to 12 daily. *Jul/18 – Aug/31.
Haneda – Saga (HSG/RJFS) from 4 to 5 daily. *From Jul/1. 

Frequency reductions:
Haneda – Kobe (UKB/RJBE) from 3 to 2 daily. *Jul/18 – Aug/31.

The new red-eye-timed flights connecting Japan's capital with the Ryukyu island have actually been operated since July 2012, but only with belly cargo and no passengers, feeding ANA Cargo's scissors hub at Naha. Now these flights' passenger cabin is being offered for a limited time during the peak summer vacation travel period, taking advantage of Naha's 24-hour airport capability. Either Boeing 777-300s or 787-8s will operate the flights. Although it will be the first red-eye domestic flight for ANA, Skymark Airlines (BC/SKY) has operated seasonal red-eye flights on the same route since 2005, albeit sporadically.

NEW red-eye Haneda – Naha timetable:
NH999 HND 0000 – 0230 OKA 773/788 Daily *Jul/18 – Aug/31.
NH1000 OKA 0440 – 0700 HND 773/788 Daily *Jul/18 – Aug/31.

Unlike other typical domestic flights leaving Haneda, NH999 will not be accepting electronic check-in nor walk-through 'Skip' service, and passengers must be checked-in at Counter 15 in Terminal 2 before 2330. The Premium Class cabin will not be opened, as won't lounges which will be closed at that time of the day. Onward check-in will not be offered and pets will not be allowed for check-in. Return leg NH1000 will look more like normal flights, except for not accepting pet check-in and keeping the Premium Class cabin closed.

NH999/1000 will allow for convenient through-connections at ANA's expanded international operations at Haneda (ANA's Summer 2014 international expansion.). One-way fares will start from as low as 9,700 JPY (very affordable for a Haneda flight with ANA) for 60-day-advance tickets and 20,700 JPY for last-minute.

Source: All Nippon Airways, April 23rd. (in Japanese)
Source: All Nippon Airways, April 23rd. (in Japanese)

*Post edited/updated on April 25th.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

JAL to launch Sky Next product on May 28th.

On April 22nd, Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) announced that the first of their 'JAL Sky Next' refurbished domestic aircraft, a Boeing 777-200, will enter service on May 28th on the Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) – Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF) route. For details, see our 'JAL Sky Next new domestic product unveiled.' post from February 1st. JAL will initially place the aircraft on three round-trips until June 30th.
Boeing 777-246 JA8984 'Eco Jet Nature' taxiing for departure at Haneda. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

JAL Sky Next-designated flights (May 28th - June 30th):
JL303 HND 0725 – 0915 FUK 772 Daily
JL315 HND 1225 – 1415 FUK 772 Daily
JL325 HND 1725 – 1915 FUK 772 Daily
JL310 FUK 1000 – 1135 HND 772 Daily
JL320 FUK 1500 – 1635 HND 772 Daily
JL332 FUK 2000 – 2135 HND 772 Daily

Why Fukuoka and not Osaka or Sapporo? Lower-cost rival Skymark Airines' (BC/SKY) introduction of their brand-new all-premium 271-seat Airbus A330-300s (Skymark Airlines' first two Airbus A330s delivered.) on May 31st (Skymark delays Airbus A330 introduction to May 31st.) on the same route, which is the world's seventh busiest by passenger volume, must have played an important part in their decision.
JAL Sky Next. (Image: JAL)

JAL is refurbishing the interiors of 77 domestic aircraft including Boeing 777-200/300s, 767-300/300ERs, and 737-800s with all-new leather seats, LED lighting, and in-flight Wi-Fi internet connection, the latter of which will be available from mid-May. See also JAL's Sky Next website.

Source: Japan Airlines, April 22nd. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Jetstar Japan to launch Kansai hub from June.

Jetstar Japan (GK/JJP) intends to launch its long-awaited Osaka/Kansai (KIX/RJBB) hub from June, according to a plan submitted to the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) earlier this month. The Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA)-based LCC initially plans to base three Airbus A320s along with 80 pilots, cabin attendants, and maintenance crews at the airport which also serves as a hub for rival LCC Peach Aviation (MM/APJ).
Airbus A320-232(SL) JA08JJ taxies at Oita. (Photo: Jetstar Japan)

Summer 2014 schedule adjustments were announced on April 21st, operating up to 94 daily flights from that month, on condition that the hub launch is approved. A previously-released timetable (Jetstar Japan releases Summer 2014 schedule.) listed up to 76 daily flights. Frequencies will be increased from Kansai to Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF) and Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH), as well as from Narita to Fukuoka, Naha, Kansai, and Takamatsu (TAK/RJOT).

Frequency increases:
Kansai – Fukuoka from 1 to up to 2 with 32A/320. *From Jun/6.
Kansai – Naha from 1 to up to 3 with 32A/320. *From Jun/3.
Narita – Fukuoka from 5 to up to 7 with 32A/320. *From Jun/3.
Narita – Naha from 3 to up to 5 with 32A/320. *From Jun/6.
Narita – Kansai from 4 to up to 6 with 32A/320. *From Jun/1.
Narita – Takamatsu from 2 to up to 3 with 32A/320. *From Jul/18.

I have omitted posting Jetstar Japan's timetable since their flight numbers, departure/arrival times, and frequencies vary depending on the period and day. Please refer to their Summer 2014 Timetable for details.

After posting hefty losses and delaying its Kansai hub launch five times due to the shortage of maintenance crews, Jetstar Japan has been capping its fleet at 18 A320s, of which at least four currently sit on the ground at any given time. Regional international flights are being talked about for launch from later this year, after the Kansai hub is up and running. The Japanese affiliate of Australia's Jetstar Airways (JQ/JST) is owned 33.3% by Qantas Airways (QF/QFA), 33.3% by Japan Airlines (JL/JAL), 16.7% by Mitsubishi, and 16.7% by Century Tokyo Leasing.

Source: Jetstar Japan, April 21st. (PDF; in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, April 22nd. (in Japanese) 

*Post edited/updated on April 22nd.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Vanilla Air adjusts Summer 2014 schedule.

Vanilla Air (JW/VNL) adjusted their Summer 2014 by extending three-times-daily Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) – Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) service through September 30th, instead of until August 31st as previously announced (Vanilla Air announces Summer 2014 schedule.). Meanwhile, one Narita – Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) round-trip (JW901/902) has been canceled from September 1st.
Vanilla Air's Airbus A320. (Image: Vanilla Air)

Flight schedule to/from Okinawa/Naha:
JW801 NRT 0800 1055 OKA 32A/320 Daily *Suspended from Oct/1.
JW803 NRT 0925 – 1220 OKA 32A/320 Daily
JW805 NRT 1455 – 1755 OKA 32A/320 Daily
JW802 OKA 1135 – 1415 NRT 32A/320 Daily* Suspended from Oct/1.
JW804 OKA 1345 – 1625 NRT 32A/320 Daily
JW806  OKA 1845 – 2125 NRT 32A/320 Daily

Abundant with pristine beaches and coral reefs, Okinawa is a favorite summer domestic destination, so at first it seemed peculiar to reduce frequency in the middle of the season. Rumor has it that Vanilla Air had plans to launch another new destination after Amami (ASJ/RJKA) (Vanilla Air announces Amami Oshima.) from the beginning of September but either it failed to materialize or has been postponed. Targeting holiday and resort destinations, the Narita-based 100%-subsidiary of ANA Holdings, parent of All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA), will launch Amami on July 1st.

Where will be the next new destination?

Source: Vanilla Air, April 19th. (in Japanese)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

JAL hopes to resume Sao Paulo with Boeing 787s.

Japan Airlines' (JL/JAL) Chairman Masaru Onishi revealed that the airline is willing to resume service from Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) to Sao Paulo/Guarulhos (GRU/SBGR) if there is sufficient demand, in an interview held during his trip to the Brazilian capital at the end of March.
Boeing 787-8 JA821J arrives at Haneda in the late hours. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

"We strongly want to make it fly," he said in a recent interview with Kyodo News in Sao Paulo, referring to the route, which was terminated in September 2010 under JAL's restructuring during the company's bankruptcy. JAL had operated the link via New York/John F. Kennedy (JFK/KJFK) two to three times per week for over 32 years, using the Boeing 747 in its later years. JAL's Sao Paulo branch was also subsequently closed.

Amid high hopes of Brazil's economic growth further boosted by the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup (football/soccer) and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics/Paralympics, Japanese automakers including Honda have built new plants in South America's biggest country, and many requests have been made by Brazil's Japanese community to resume the route. Mr. Onishi told that if JAL were to re-launch the route, the flight will likely go via New York utilizing their medium-capacity fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The Narita - JFK route went double-daily from March 30th.

To check on potential demand, JAL plans to sell some seats on TAM Airlines' (JJ/TAM) flights between New York and Sao Paulo by implementing code-shares with the Oneworld partner, which only joined the alliance on March 30th. "With the code-sharing, we will be able to know the Brazilian market better. Then we will decide whether to operate our own flights," Mr. Onishi added.

Mr. Onishi also said that Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW/KDFW) is one of the main candidate destinations from Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT). Nine daily daytime international slots remain unallocated at Tokyo's slot-restricted downtown airport, and all of these are said to be for flights to the U.S.A. Negotiations between the two respective authorities regarding which side gets how many slots have yet to bear fruit, but are hoped to reach an agreement in time for the Winter 2014 timetable effective October 26th.

Source: Nikkey Shimbun, April 2nd. (in Japanese)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Skymark adds Fukuoka and Nagoya from Ibaraki.

On April 18th, Skymark Airlines (BC/SKY) expanded operations at its Ibaraki (IBR/RJAH) focus city, located 80 kilometers northeast of central Tokyo, by launching twice-daily service to Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF) and once-daily to Nagoya/Chubu Centrair (NGO/RJGG). Both routes are operated by 177-seat Boeing 737-800s.
Boeing 737-8Q8(WL) JA737T takes off from Haneda on a cloudy afternoon. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Skymark's Ibaraki operations:
Ibaraki – Fukuoka NEW 2 daily with 73H/738.
BC831 IBR 1015 – 1215 FUK 73H/738 Daily *NEW.
BC835 IBR 1515 – 1715 FUK 73H/738 Daily *NEW.
BC832 FUK 1250 – 1435 IBR 73H/738 Daily *NEW.
BC836 FUK 1750 – 1935 IBR 73H/738 Daily *NEW.

Ibaraki – Kobe (UKB/RJBE) 2 daily with 73H/738.
BC183 IBR 1230 – 1350 UKB 73H/738 Daily
BC187 IBR 1655 – 1815 UKB 73H/738 Daily
BC182 UKB 1040 – 1155 IBR 73H/738 Daily
BC186 UKB 1505 – 1620 IBR 73H/738 Daily

Ibaraki – Nagoya/Chubu Centrair NEW 1 daily with 73H/738.
BC867 IBR 2010 – 2110 NGO 73H/738 Daily *NEW.
BC862 NGO 0835 – 0940 IBR 73H/738 Daily *NEW.

Ibaraki – Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) 2 daily with 73H/738.
BC791 IBR 1115 – 1240 CTS 73H/738 Daily
BC795 IBR 1900 – 2025 CTS 73H/738 Daily
BC790 CTS 0910 – 1035 IBR 73H/738 Daily
BC794 CTS 1650 – 1815 IBR 73H/738 Daily

"We want our people to love the service so that it can be sustained," Yachie Yamaguchi, Deputy Governor of Ibaraki prefecture said at the inauguration ceremony, adding "We want to promote Ibaraki's splendors and increase in-bound passengers as the third airport (after Haneda and Narita) serving the Greater Tokyo (Kanto) region." From Ibaraki, Skymark already serves New Chitose, serving Sapporo, and Kobe, serving the Greater Osaka (Kansai) region, while through-fares are offered to Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) and Yonago (YGJ/RJOH) via their Kobe hub.


With Chinese LCC Spring Airlines (9C/CQH) being the only other carrier serving Ibaraki, Skymark is the sole domestic airline at Japan's first LCC-dedicated airport, which was named the 'Low-cost Airport of the Year 2011' by Australian aviation think-tank Centre for Aviation (CAPA). Skymark has found the airport convenient for those living in northern Greater Tokyo (Kanto), including the prefectures of Tochigi and Ibaraki. A two-hour but 500-JPY bus ride connects the airport with Tokyo Station as well. AirAsia Group is considering Ibaraki as one of its focus cities for its new Japanese venture (AirAsia plans return to Japan in 2015.) and officials made a visit on April 10th.

Source: Ibaraki Shimbun, April 19th. (in Japanese)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thanks Jumbo: ANA's final Boeing 747 leaves Japan.

On April 16th, All Nippon Airways' (NH/ANA) last 'Jumbo Jet', Boeing 747-481/D JA8961, departed Japanese soil for the final time. The aircraft operated ANA's final B747 revenue service (End of an Era: ANA retires the Boeing 747.) on March 31st and also participated in the company's Initiation Ceremony (ANA's Boeing 747 participates in Initiation Ceremony.) on the following day.
Boeing 747-481/D JA8961 takes off from Haneda one last time on April 16th. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

As flight NH9432, JA8961 started moving from Tokyo/Haneda's (HND/RJTT) Spot 805 at 2102 JST and took off from Runway 34R at 2112, in front of a crowd of approximately 300 enthusiasts who were present at Terminal 2's observation deck to see the airplane off. It arrived at Anchorage (ANC/PANC) at 1034 AKDT, and after immigrations, departed again at 0257 on April 17th, and is currently (at the time of writing) on its way to its final resting place at Tupelo (TUP/KTUP) in Mississippi, U.S.A. Participants of 'Farewell Boeing 747 America Tour' (ANA announes final Boeing 747 farewell tour.) will greet ANA's last 'Queen of the Skies' at Tupelo, and take part in starting the dismantling of the jetliner. As with ANA's earlier examples, JA8961 is also being sold to Universal Asset Management for spare parts and eventual scrapping.
Boeing 747-481 JA8094 'Techno Jumbo'. (Photo: ANA)

JA8961 was manufactured back on April 13th, 1993, and delivered to ANA on May 13th. It has spent its entire life plying the domestic skies of Japan. I had an opportunity to fly on her (CoachFlyer NH126: OKA - HND on All Nippon Airways' Boeing 747.) in November last year. 'D' standing for 'Domestic', ANA's B747-400D seated 23 in Premium Class and 542 in economy (total 565) and was Boeing's answer to Japan's need for a new generation high-capacity short-haul airliner that would replace the B747SR, the 'Short-Range' Classic Jumbo. 
ANA's engineers produced this mosaic art. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Other than being the ultimate ANA Jumbo, JA8961 also flew ANA's first sunrise flight for 2014 (ANA and JAL's First Sunrise Flights.), a come-back flight to Osaka/Itami (ITM/RJOO) on January 12th (ANA Boeing 747 makes final visit to Itami.), as well as farewell events at Sendai (SDJ/RJSS) and Fukushima (FKS/RJSF) on March 15th (ANA operates 'Boeing 747-400 Graduation Flight'.) and operated farewell tours to and from Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) and Kumamoto (KMJ/RJFT) on the following day (ANA Boeing 747 flies Sayonara and Kumamoto charters.). It made its final visit to Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF) and Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) on March 30th (ANA Jumbo bids farewell to Fukuoka and Sapporo.).
Boeing 747-481/D JA8961 makes its last visit to Itami. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

ANA's first Jumbo Jet was a B747SR delivered back on December 20th, 1978. Dubbed 'Super Jumbo', it entered service on the Haneda to Fukuoka and New Chitose routes on January 25th, 1979, followed by Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) on February 9th, and Kagoshima (KOJ/RJFK) and Kumamoto on April 1st. The first long-range B747-200B entered service on the Narita - Los Angeles (LAX/KLAX) route on July 16th, 1986, followed shortly by Washington D.C./Dulles (IAD/KIAD), quickly becoming the international flagship for ANA.
Boeing 747-481/D JA8963 'Marine Jumbo'. (Photo: Boeing)

Their first B747-400 was delivered on August 28th, 1990. Named 'Techno Jumbo' by its employees, the glass-cockpit Jumbos entered service on November 1st initially on domestic routes from Haneda to Fukuoka, Itami, and New Chitose for crew familiarization, before being placed on long-haul routes to Europe and North America, augmenting the B747-200B. ANA's first high-capacity domestic B747-400D entered service on February 1st, 1992 on the Haneda to Nagasaki (NGS/RJFU) and New Chitose routes.
Boeing 747SR-81 JA8139 'Snoopy Go'. (Photo: ANA)

To commemorate their 500 million passenger milestone, ANA painted B747-481/D JA8963 in a 'Marine Jumbo' theme, originally designed by then-sixth-year student Yukie Ogaki, chosen from hundreds of applications. After a carefully-planned painting process at Boeing, the whale entered service on the Haneda - New Chitose route on September 12th, 1993. It became so popular that it prompted ANA to paint B767-381 JA8579 in a similar scheme dubbed 'Marine Jumbo Junior', so that it could fly to airports that cannot handle the B747. These were to be reverted to the normal scheme in January 1995, however, the Great Hanshin Earthquake of January 17th delayed plans, and they remained in service until May 31st that year.
Boeing 747-481/D JA8957 'Pikachu Jumbo' was retired on September 30th, 2013. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

ANA later put popular Peanuts character Snoopy on the B747 in the winters of 1996 and 1997. 'Pokemon Jet', which is derived from the popular Nintendo game 'Pocket Monsters' (Pokemon), entered service on July 2nd, 1998. As the game along with the TV animation series proliferated worldwide, ANA also painted an international B747-400 in the scheme and placed it into service on February 24th. Several versions were produced, including 'Pikachu Jumbo' (B747-481/D JA8956) from May 24th, 2004 and 'Ohana Jumbo' (B747-481/D JA8956) from December 5th.
Boeing 747-481/D JA8956 'Ohana Jumbo' was retired on November 30th, 2012. (Photo: Japan Airport Terminal)

However, with a growing fleet of B777s along with the introduction of the B777-300ER from 2004, the B747 gradually started to hand over its role to its younger more fuel-efficient twin-engined cousin. The last B747SR 'Super Jumbo', B747SR-81 JA8157, operated its final revenue flight on March 10th, 2006. Their first of the modern Jumbo, B747-481 JA8094, was sold off in April 2007, and four years later on March 21st, 2011, the last long-haul 'Dash 400', B747-481 JA8958, was withdrawn from service, leaving only a handful of B747-400Ds plying trunk domestic routes. And the B747-400D's last revenue service (End of an Era: ANA retires the Boeing 747.) was completed on March 31st, 2014, putting an end to 35 years of Jumbo operations.
Boeing 747-481 JA8094 in the final livery. It was sold off in April 2007. (Photo: ANA)

Japan saw its first B747 when Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) placed its first example in service in April 1970, opening an era of mass-transportation. JAL eventually acquired a total of 108 brand-new B747s from Seattle, while ANA also bought 45, and during the type's 44-year service in the 'Land of the Rising Sun', it became synonymous with, or even one of the icons of Japan's rise as an economic powerhouse. JAL retired its last B747 on March 1st, 2011, and now ANA as well. Although the commercial passenger 'Jumbo' is gone, Government of Japan's two B747-400s will keep on flying until 2018, while the freighter remains in service with Nippon Cargo Airlines (KZ/NCA), which operates B747-8Fs alongside B747-400Fs.
Farewell B747. (Image: ANA)

Thanks Jumbo. I'm sure she will keep on flying in the memories of all who loved the beautiful jetliner.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

IBEX to retire Bombardier CRJ-100/200s by FY2016.

On April 15th, IBEX Airlines (FW/IBX) announced their FY2014 - 2016 Mid-Term Strategy, with the aim of becoming the 'top leader of regional airlines'.

The Tokyo-headquartered commuter airline, which has bases in Sendai (SDJ/RJSS) and Osaka/Itami (ITM/RJOO), is targeting continued zero-accident operations, a 98.5% flight completion rate and 95% on-time rate, and a cost per seat kilometer of 12 JPY. IBEX will look for more opportunities from its two focus cities, however, no new considerations were disclosed. It aims a total revenue of 13.9 billion JPY to produce an operating profit of 500 million JPY by FY2016.
Bombardier CL-600-2B19 CRJ-200ER JA04RJ taxies at Narita. (Photo: IBEX Airlines)

On the fleet side, they will induct two additional Bombardier CL-600-2C10 CRJ-700NGs, one each in FY2015 and FY2016, while its two 50-seat CL-600-2B19 CRJ-100LRs will be phased out, one this year and the other in FY2015. The two CL-600-2B19 CRJ-200ERs will also be retired by FY2016, standardizing its fleet on the 70-seat CRJ-700NG.

IBEX Airlines currently operates five CRJ-700NGs, two CRJ-200ERs, and two CRJ-100LRs on 16 routes totaling 54 daily flights. It is owned 47.9% by Japan Digital Laboratory, a software developing firm, 18.8% by that company's President Kazuo Maezawa, 9.5% by Art Vivant, 7.1% by Southern International, while the rest is owned by private investors. All flights code-share with All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) under the branding 'ANA Connection'.

Source: IBEX Airlines, April 15th. (PDF; in Japanese)