Saturday, May 31, 2014

Solaseed Air sets new 60-day-advance fares.

On May 29th, Skynet Asia Airways (6J/SNJ), doing business as Solaseed Air, announced new 60-day-advance discounted tickets dubbed 'Bargain 60' to be offered for travel from September 1st onwards. The latest of their discounted fares line-up 'Bargain Series' is being introduced as part of a campaign to celebrate their third anniversary of the Solaseed brand.
Boeing 737-4Y0 JA737E was retired in December 2013 and is currently stored at Tucson, Arizona, USA. All four remaining 737 'Classics' are to be withdrawn by the end of the Summer 2014 timetable in October. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Bargain 60 is up to 74% cheaper than the normal one-way fare, and about 4% less expensive than Bargain 45, a 45-day-advance fare, which has been the cheapest fare until now. All routes from Kyushu to Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) will start from 9,500 JPY, Kobe – Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) from 8,600 JPY, and all routes from Kyushu to Naha from 9,500 JPY.

Cancellation fee is set at 430 JPY and refund cost is 20% of the fare if canceled before 60 days prior to the departure date, and 50% for after 59 days prior. Tickets are currently available for travel from September 1st through October 25th, the remainder of the Summer 2014 schedule.

Source: Skynet Asia Airways, May 29th. (PDF; in Japanese)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Skymark is offering new last-minute discounts.

On May 26th, Skymark Airlines (BC/SKY) announced new last-minute discount fares for youth and seniors. Dubbed 'SkyMate 1' (ages 12 to 21) and 'SeniorMate 1' (from 60 years old), respectively, these fares will be available for travel between May 31st and June 30th.
A Skymark Boeing 737-800 takes off from snow-covered Yonago. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Booking will be available from 0700 JST one day prior to the departure date and the new discount fares are being offered system-wide, with the exception of Ibaraki (IBR/RJAH) – Nagoya/Chubu Centrair (NGO/RJGG), Kobe (UKB/RJBE) – Yonago (YGJ/RJOH), Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) – Ishigaki (ISG/ROIG), and Naha – Miyako (MMY/ROMY). One-way prices will range from 10,000 JPY to 14,000 JPY for SkyMate and between 10,000 JPY and 12,000 JPY for SeniorMate, and will depend on the number of remaining seats. These tickets may not be offered if the flight is full or near full.

Customers will need to show proof of age with an identification card at the airport. Flight change is not allowed, however, if there is a seat available on another flight on the same route from the same departure city on the same day, the customer is eligible to change at the cost of the fare difference. Fee for refund is set at 500 JPY, while cancellation fee will cost 3,000 JPY. It will not be refundable after the flight's departure time.

Source: Skymark Airlines, May 26th. (PDF; in Japanese)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

JAL's first Sky Next 777 enters service.

On May 28th, Japan Airlines' (JL/JAL) first of their 'JAL Sky Next'-refurbished aircraft (JAL Sky Next new domestic product unveiled.) entered service. Boeing 777-289 JA007D became the first to receive the revamp, boasting all-new leather seats, LED mood lighting, and in-flight Wi-Fi (available from July), and entered service on the Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) – Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF) route today with flight JL303.
Boeing 777-289 JA007D boasts 'JAL Sky Next' titles. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Both economy and Class J, JAL's domestic business class (but more akin to premium economy), received all-new leather seats, which until now had only been used for their First Class seats. Seat pitch will remain the same at 38 inches (96.5 centimeters) for Class J and 31 inches (78.7 centimeters) for economy, however, a slim-style seat for economy will increase legroom by five centimeters. Legroom for Class J is 18 centimeters bigger than economy.
New leather Class J seats on the Boeing 777 with 787-style mood lighting. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

The new Class J seats are manufactured by KI Holdings (formerly Koito Industries) and TIMCO, while the economy seats are produced by Zodiac Aerospace (formerly SICMA Aero Seat). First Class seats being fitted on the domestic 767-300/300ERs for the first time will be made by Tenryu Aero Component, based in Gifu Prefecture in Japan.
All-new leather slim-style economy seats on the Boeing 777. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Carpets of the interiors were also renewed. LED lighting has been changed to 787-style mood lighting, with colors to be changed depending on the time of the day, season, and the 'natural rhythm of time'. In-flight Wi-Fi will be offered from July onwards, with U.S.A.-based Gogo to provide the network.

JA007D will be dedicated to three round-trips between Haneda and Fukuoka until June 30th (JAL to launch Sky Next product on May 28th.), when the service is expanded to other trunk routes as well. Aircraft to receive the new treatment will number 77, including seven 777-300s, nine 777-200s, 20 767-300/300ERs, and 41 737-800s. Work on the 777-300s will begin in August, 767s in September, and 737-800s in October.

Source: Aviation Wire, May 27th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, May 28th. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

JAL retires first Boeing 777.

Japan Airlines' (JL/JAL) first 'Triple-Seven', a Boeing 777-246 registered JA8981, operated its last revenue flight on April 30th from Nagoya/Chubu Centrair (NGO/RJGG) to Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) as flight JL140. This becomes the first Japanese-registered 777 to be retired.
Boeing 777-246 JA8981 Waku Waku Aloha Jet taxies at rainy Haneda in May 2011. Although the campaign ended at the end of January, she retained these colors until July. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

The aircraft is the 23rd 777 to roll off the production line and completed its maiden flight on January 26th, 1996. Christened Sirius, it was delivered the following month on February 15th. JAL's domestic 777s were called 'Star Jets' and named after constellations. After the merger with Japan Air System (JD/JAS) in 2004, JA8981 received the 'Arc of the Sun' livery in summer 2007. From October 2010 to July 2011, it also flew in Waku Waku Aloha Jet special livery to promote JAL's resumption of Haneda – Honolulu (HNL/PHNL) flights after the airport was reopened for long-haul international flights.
Boeing 777-246 JA8981 Sirius rests between training flights at Grant County Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, USA. JAL's training center here was closed in March 2009. (Photo: JAL)

Sirius spent its entire 18 years with JAL flying Japan's domestic skies. Final maintenance checks have been finished, and the aircraft is currently stored at Haneda in an all-white livery awaiting a ferry flight to Goodyear (GYR/KGYR) in Arizona, U.S.A. Of their 15-strong 777-200 fleet, including seven inherited through the merger with JAS, nine are being refurbished throughout the cabin with JAL's Sky Next interiors (JAL Sky Next new domestic product unveiled.), while the other six are being phased out by March 2016, including JA8981.

How times have passed... the Triple-Seven is still a very new airplane for me.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

CoachFlyer JH366: AOJ – NKM on Fuji Dream Airlines' Embraer E175.

Travel date: March 2014
Flight: JH366
Route: Aomori (AOJ/RJSA) – Nagoya/Komaki (NKM/RJNA)
Carrier: Fuji Dream Airlines (JH/FDA)
Aircraft: Embraer ERJ170-200/STD (E175) JA05FJ 'Orange'
Class: Economy
Direct distance: 692 km (430 miles)
Flight time: 1 hour 6 minutes

Blizzard was the weather when I had to take Fuji Dream Airlines (JH/FDA) from Aomori to Nagoya. It was around -6 degrees Celsius and the winds were very strong, with snow gusts often obstructing our front view while driving my car to the airport, prompting all drivers to travel at a much slower speed than usual. And with Aomori Airport (AOJ/RJSA) literally located on top of a mountain where snow and wind is worse, I was obviously worried if my airplane would be able to land.
Our Embraer ERJ170-200/STD (E175) JA05FJ 'Orange' landing in snowy Aomori, with its thrust reversers deployed to good effect. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

I managed to arrive at the airport at 1530, briefly ahead of my flight JH366's scheduled departure time of 1610. FDA's flights at Aomori are handled by partner JAL, though they don't code-share on the Aomori route for complicated reasons. Upon checking in, I was notified that the airplane was still scheduled in to arrive, albeit a few minutes late. Baggage allowance is generous at three pieces per person and up to 15 kilograms per piece, though 600 JPY is charged for every one kilogram overweight. I went up to the observation deck only to see the strong blizzard, and made me worried even more hearing the announcement that JAL's flight from Osaka/Itami (ITM/RJOO), operated by commuter subsidiary J-Air (XM/JLJ), couldn't arrive and would be diverting to Sendai (SDJ/RJSS). But no announcement about FDA. 
A gallery showing how Aomori's 'White Impulse' snow plowers work. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Visibility was around 500 meters. I watched the threshold of Runway 24 closely, and as I was hoping it could arrive, an orange E-Jet suddenly appeared from the white sky and came in for a touchdown at 1553, throwing runway snow up in the air. Plagued with thick fog in the spring and blizzards in the winter, Aomori Airport was upgraded to ILS Category IIIa in 2007 and IIIb in 2012, one of only seven airports in Japan equipped so. I went down to the second floor and passed through security, where a huge crowd was waiting. The airport announced its decision to mobilize their 'White Impulse' airport snow-plowing team, and the plowing process would take 40 minutes. So our flight was given a new departure time of 1700, while JAL's flights to Itami and Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) were also delayed. Their flight to New Chitose was unfortunately canceled, as the aircraft from Itami could not arrive into the airport.
Our aircraft 'Orange' taxiing slowly to the gate. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Boarding started for our flight at 1645 starting with priority passengers; handicapped persons, pregnant mothers, and groups with small children. FDA doesn't offer a premium product, so soon after, all others were boarding. At 1651, the doors were closed, but were told that we had to wait for de-icing. While we were waiting, the cabin crew performed a manual safety demonstration, as there are no screens equipped on this aircraft, along with a recorded explanation in Japanese and English. After that, they handed out blankets. At 1705, Captain Tatsunami-san told us that we were in line for de-icing; JAL's flight to Haneda was first, then us, followed by J-Air's Itami flight. Everyone seemed to be reading a book or newspaper, or sleeping, and as we were waiting the two cabin attendants handed out handmade Baba-Seika candies from Shizuoka. Our turn for de-icing finally came at 1715, and finished in about 15 minutes. We were pushed back at 1731, and turning our engines on, we were moving on our own six minutes later heading for the threshold of Runway 24.
JAL is responsible for de-icing FDA's aircraft. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Thrust of the two General Electric CF34-8E engines were brought up, then the brakes were released, and 'Orange' took off at 1744 only using about 1,000 meters of the runway! After a bumpy climb we reached 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) in four minutes, and within minutes the seat-belt signs were turned off. In-flight service began around 1755. The two smiling flight attendants pushed their carts through the aircraft serving beverages from a choice of Shizuoka green tea, coffee, apple juice, and water, accompanied by a Chateraise one-bite snack. On morning flights, FDA serves croissants. With JAL only offering beverages, which are free, and ANA serving selected drinks for free but everything else at an additional cost, FDA reminds you of the days when flying was a little more enjoyable. 
Flying over Yamagata, viewing the sunset. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

About 25 minutes into the flight, Captain Tatsunami-san made his announcement apologizing for the delay and informing us that we were flying over Niigata at 34,000 feet (10,360 meters) at 760 kph (470 mph) and that expected time of arrival would be 1855. Weather at Nagoya would be 4 degrees Celsius with clear skies. It was a smooth flight, and passengers started to doze off, tired from a day's work and the weather disruption. I took the time to explore the seat pocket. Albeit a small airline, FDA publishes its own in-flight magazine, called 'Dream3776' (Mt. Fuji's altitude), which talks about sightseeing spots and local specialties at FDA's destinations, as well as gives information about the natural landmarks that can be seen from the aircraft window for all of its routes.
FDA's in-flight service and what's inside their seat pocket. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Our aircraft for today was Embraer ERJ170-200 (E175) JA05FJ, delivered new to FDA on October 24th, 2010. FDA's aircraft all wear a different color and are named after it; JA01FJ is Dream Red, JA02FJ is Light Blue, JA03FJ is Pink, JA04FJ is Green, JA05FJ is Orange, JA06FJ is Purple, JA07FJ is Yellow, and JA08FJ is Tea Green (Fuji Dream Airlines receives eighth E-Jet 'Tea Green'.). Whenever they introduce a new aircraft, the company runs a poll on their website to decide on the most popular color. Their eighth ERJ was only delivered in March 2014 and enabled them to add Yamagata (GAJ/RJSC) plus various charters.
The cabin of our 84-seat Embraer E175. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

At 1825, we were informed that descent would begin soon, and just five minutes later, gradual descent into Nagoya commenced. Seat-belt signs were turned on at 1840, and as we came below the clouds, the suburbs of Japan's third largest metropolitan area started to appear. Gears were lowered at 1847, and we made a sharp right turn above the houses and expressways, making a final approach to Nagoya/Komaki's (NKM/RJNA) Runway 34. We touched down at 1850 and taxied to Spot C, where we came to a stop at 1854. There are no more jet-bridges at Komaki, and passengers disembark via airstairs and walk to the terminal through a roofed passage. As we arrived at the baggage claim, suitcases were out in 10 minutes. I hopped on the 1920 bus to Nagoya Station in downtown and arrived at 1955, after being caught in some rush-hour traffic.
'Orange' seen after arriving at Nagoya's Komaki Airport. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Opened back in 1934, Komaki was Nagoya's gateway to the world until Chubu Centrair (NGO/RJGG) succeeded that role on February 17, 2005. On that day, JAL's regional arm J-Air (XM/JLJ) moved its hub to Komaki from Hiroshima-Nishi (HIW/RJBH), which later closed in November 2012, but did not last long and shifted to Osaka/Itami in March 2011, mostly due to the parent's financial difficulties. FDA launched services from Komaki on October 31, 2010 and has since expanded their network to include Aomori, Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF), Hanamaki (HNA/RJSI), Kochi (KCZ/RJOK), Kumamoto (KMJ/RJFT), Niigata (KIJ/RJSN), and now Yamagata, essentially filling the void left by not only J-Air, but also JAL, which closed down their Chubu Centrair hub as well. At Chubu, the JAL Group now only operates four routes each for domestic and international, while ANA is currently the dominant carrier with 17 domestic and two international routes. At Nagoya's convenient airport near downtown, FDA is the sole carrier. JAL now code-shares on many of FDA's routes.
FDA's departures and arrivals hall inside Komaki's compact terminal. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Founded by major Japanese distribution company Suzuyo as the hometown airline of Shizuoka when Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport (FSZ/RJNS) was opened in June 2009, Fuji Dream launched operations on July 23, 2009. After experimenting various routes from the airport, the airline has since shifted most of its operations to Nagoya's older airport at Komaki, or officially Nagoya Airfield, located 126km to the west. FDA is not a first-class airline nor is it willing to fly everywhere and compete with the mighty full-service carriers and the growing LCCs, but a humble carrier with a modest level of service constantly looking to carve out a niche in under-served regional markets, most of which can no longer be sustained with a high-cost ANA or JAL service.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Amakusa Airlines chooses ATR42-600.

On May 19th, Amakusa City Government in Kumamoto Prefecture announced that Amakusa Airlines (AHX), the commuter airline of the Amakusa Islands, is preparing to order a single ATR42-600 for delivery in January 2016. As reported earlier (Amakusa Airlines to acquire an ATR42.), the 48-seat French turboprop will replace their sole Bombardier DHC-8-103, JA81MX.
Amakusa Airlines' fleet: Bombardier DHC-8-103 JA81MX. (Photo: Nikkei)

Amakusa City hopes to secure the purchase deposit of 260 million JPY in June's budget proposal. The total cost of the aircraft is estimated at 2.1 billion JPY and will be split among the airline's shareholders of Amakusa City, which owns 22.92%, Kamiamakusa City, owning 2.73%, and Reihoku Town, which owns 1.2%, as well as Kumamoto Prefecture, which controls 53.31%. The remainder is owned by local businesses.

A 300-million-JPY C-check is coming up for its sole 'Dash 8' in 2015, and the company has concluded that that amount plus subsequent maintenance costs of the 14-year-old propliner would outweigh the expenses of replacing it with a newer model. From its base at Amakusa (AXJ/RJDA) with its single DHC-8, Amakusa Airlines operates to Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF) and Kumamoto (KMJ/RJFT), as well as the Kumamoto - Osaka/Itami (ITM/RJOO) route.

Source: Kumamoto Nichinichi Shimbun, May 20th. (in Japanese)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Peach cancels 56 Okinawa – Taipei flights in August.

Peach Aviation (MM/APJ) has announced further cancellations for its Summer 2014 schedule due to pilot shortage; its daily round-trip between Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) and Taipei/Taoyuan (TPE/RCTP) will not be operated between August 3rd through 31st, affecting 56 flights. Two First Officers who were training to become Captains quitting in May has been told as the reason.
Airbus A320-214 JA806P taxies for departure at Okinawa's Naha. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Including previously-reported disruptions (Peach outlines Summer 2014 mass cancellations.), the number of canceled flights during July and August will rise to 894, which add up to a total of 2,128 cancellations between May 1st and October 25th. The number of affected passengers stays at 27,209, as these 28 round-trips have not been on sale yet. The Osaka/Kansai (KIX/RJBB)-based LCC intends to announce the reduced timetable for September and October, however, they warn that at least 786 will be canceled.

The fledgling LCC currently employs 110 cockpit crews; 55 Captains and 55 First Officers. Compared to April, one new Captain was hired and two First Officers were promoted, while eight Captains remain on sick leave, making the total number of Captains who can work at 52.

Source: Peach Aviation, May 20th. (PDF; in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, May 20th. (in Japanese)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Jetstar Japan delays Kansai hub, cancels 101 flights.

On May 21st, Jetstar Japan (GK/JJP) announced the delay of their long-awaited (and too-many-times-delayed) Osaka/Kansai (KIX/RJBB) hub launch from June 3rd (Jetstar Japan to launch Kansai hub from June.) to June 12th. As a result, 101 flights, or 14% of their operations, are being canceled during that period.
Airbus A320-232 JA10JJ at Toulouse prior to delivery. (Photo: Airbus)

The Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA)-based LCC reports coordination with maintenance contractor JAL Engineering (JALEC), a subsidiary of Japan Airlines (JL/JAL), taking more time as the primary reason for the postponement. Shortages of pilots, which have caused massive travel disruptions at competitors Peach Aviation (MM/APJ) (Peach outlines Summer 2014 mass cancellations.) and Vanilla Air (JW/VNL) (Vanilla Air cancels 154 flights in June due to pilot shortage.), are not an issue with Jetstar Japan, the company says.

Affected routes from Narita are Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF), Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH), and Kansai, while from Kansai, Fukuoka and Naha see cancellations. Jetstar Japan is offering re-accommodation on their other flights as well as full refunds at no charge, and a 2,000 JPY voucher for use with their buy-on-board program is also being given out.

Source: Jetstar Japan, May 21st. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, May 21st. (in Japanese)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Air Do plans Sapporo – Taipei charters in November.

AIRDO (HD/ADO) (d.b.a. Air Do) will launch its long-awaited international flights this autumn, starting with charter flights between Hokkaido and Taiwan. Two Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) – Taipei/Taoyuan (TPE/RCTP) round-trips to be flown with 144-seat Boeing 737-700s are currently planned for November. The Hokkaido-based carrier will use local travel agencies at both destinations to fill the flights.
Boeing 767-33A/ER JA98AD lands at Haneda. Although having flown only domestic, the 'Extended Range' version was acquired with international ambitions in mind. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Obihiro (OBO/RJCB) in central Hokkaido was also considered, along with other cities in Taiwan as well, however, having no experience in the overseas market, Air Do chose a low-risk route. Being a domestic airport, Obihiro would require arrangements for a makeshift CIQ facility, while airports of Taiwan other than in Taipei don't have ground handling support from partner All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA). ANA Holdings, parent of ANA, has a minority 14% stake in Air Do.

Air Do is evaluating additional regional international routes for 2015 and beyond, and hopes to have scheduled international services from Hokkaido before the Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics in 2020. However, with LCCs gaining a foothold in regional Asian routes, which are generally better suited for LCCs rather than full-service carriers, will Air Do's foray into the international market work?

Source: Hokkaido Shimbun, May 20th. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New AirAsia Japan to be based at Nagoya Chubu Centrair.

AAJR, the temporary legal entity for the new Japanese arm of AirAsia (AK/AXM), officially changed its name to 'AirAsia Japan' (Mk II) and registered their headquarters at Nagoya/Chubu Centrair (NGO/RJGG) effective May 1st.
AirAsia Japan (Mk I) Airbus A320-214 JA01AJ lands at Narita in 2012. It is now with Indonesia AirAsia as PK-AZJ. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

The Malaysian LCC's first crack at the Japanese market with AirAsia Japan (JW/WAJ) (Mk I) (CoachFlyer JW8541: NRT - FUK on AirAsia Japan's Airbus A320.) ended in a divorce with joint-venture (JV) partner All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA), only 10 months after launching operations in August 2012, due to disagreements over how the airline would be run and other complicated reasons. It ceased operations on October 26th, 2013, and re-launched as Vanilla Air (JW/VNL) under 100% ANA ownership on December 20th (Vanilla Air launches operations.). 

So, as rumored and probably the most realistic option, Nagoya has indeed been chosen. It is Japan's third largest metropolitan area with a population of 8.9 million, but has been relatively underserved, mostly due to the fact that it is connected with the mega-cities of Tokyo and Osaka with the super-efficient (but expensive) Shinkansen. ANA operates the bulk of routes and Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) has minimum presence, while niche carrier Fuji Dream Airlines (JH/FDA) maintains a hub at Nagoya/Komaki (NKM/RJNA), the older airport near downtown. The first AirAsia Japan (Mk I) also set up a hub three months prior to the failed JV's divorce, while sister AirAsia X (D7/XAX) currently serves the airport four-times weekly from Kuala Lumpur (KUL/WMKK).

Earlier this February, AirAsia Group's Director Tony Fernandes revealed that talks are underway involving up to three 'like-minded' Japanese companies listed on the stock exchange to invest up to 70 million USD in initial start-up capital. Rakuten, originally an IT venture and now Japan's largest e-commerce firm, has been rumored as a partner, but nothing has been disclosed. Foreign ownership of Japanese airlines is capped at 33%, but having three partners instead of one or two would enable AirAsia to retain the biggest share. For their failed first try, they erred in giving ANA majority control at 67%.

The reincarnation is being led by former AirAsia Japan (Mk I) (JW/WAJ) head Yoshinori Odagiri, who has been appointed CEO, and Osamu Hata, who previously worked with Dell's Japan unit and has been appointed CFO (New AirAsia Japan names CEO; official launch in April.). The new AirAsia Japan (Mk II) is expected to launch domestic and regional international flights with Airbus A320s from Chubu Centrair as early as first quarter of 2015 (AirAsia plans return to Japan in 2015.). With the Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics coming up in 2020, LCC-dedicated Ibaraki (IBR/RJAH) is being considered as a focus city serving the Greater Tokyo region, however, AirAsia officials who visited last month have been concerned about the airport's tiny size.

Source: Traicy, May 19th. (in Japanese)

Monday, May 19, 2014

ANA considering Haneda – Istanbul.

According to the May 19th edition of Japanese aviation newspaper Daily Aviation, All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) is considering launching Istanbul/Atatürk (IST/LTBA) from Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) later this year. The wholly-owned subsidiary of ANA Holdings would utilize Haneda's midnight hour (2200 – 0700) slot just recently allocated for Turkey service, and will likely operate with Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
Boeing 787-8 JA803A with 'Inspiration of JAPAN' titles taxies at Haneda. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Earlier on May 16th, the authorities of Japan and Turkey together announced that they had reached an agreement to allocate one slot each to both sides for a Haneda – Turkey service using the midnight hours effective October 26th. Growing Turkish Airlines (TK/THY) is currently the sole carrier in the Japan – Turkey market, serving Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) 14 times weekly and Osaka/Kansai (KIX/RJBB) seven times weekly from their hub at Istanbul/Atatürk. ANA would be able to leverage the Star Alliance partner's extensive network.

Source: Aviation Wire, May 16th. (in Japanese)
Source: FlyTeam, May 19th. (in Japanese)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

ANA Cargo adds 10th Boeing 767 Freighter.

All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) expanded its dedicated freighter fleet to 10 on May 13th, when Boeing 767-316F/ER JA605F arrived at Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA).
Boeing 767-381/ER(BCF) JA8356 at ANA Cargo's Okinawa scissors hub at Naha. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

It is ANA's first secondhand freighter, and was acquired from Florida West International Airways (RF/FWL), which first took delivery of this aircraft on November 28th, 2001 as N316LA. Florida West is 25% owned by LAN Airlines (LA/LAN) and is part of the LATAM Airlines Group. Ironically, their remaining sole example, 767-346F/ER N422LA, formerly served with Japan Airlines' (JL/JAL) as JA633J.

Joining ANA's cargo fleet of two 767-300ERFs as well as seven passenger-to-freighter-converted 767-300BCFs, JA605F will also be their first winglet-equipped 767 freighter. It entered service the following day on NH8563, service from Narita to Nagoya/Chubu Centrair (NGO/RJGG). Most of ANA Cargo's flights are operated by lower-cost subsidiary Air Japan (NQ/AJX).

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Skymark delays Airbus A330 launch again; now June 14th.

Skymark Airlines (BC/SKY) has decided to delay inauguration of their brand-new Airbus A330s for the fourth time, now to June 14th. Japan's third largest carrier cited preparations for "safe operations" taking longer than expected. With crew training flights which were planned for mid-April having only started on April 25th (Skymark starts Airbus A330 training flights.), a fourth delay had been looking highly possible.
Skymark's A330s will boast new Green Seats as well as mini-skirt flight attendants. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Skymark's 271-seat all-premium A330s (Skymark's first two Airbus A330s delivered.) were originally planned to be introduced on March 25th, but delays in certification of the type in Japan as well as maintenance preparation issues had prompted the airline to put off that date to April 18th. It was then put off to May 31st (Skymark delays Airbus A330 introduction to May 31st.) citing additional time needed for staff familiaraization, and now the inaugural flight is expected to take place on June 14th with BC003, service from Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) to Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF).

To-be-A330-operated flights before June 14th will be swapped with Boeing 737-800s, however, full refunds or change of flights will be offered to customers who booked these flights to experience the new Airbus widebody, at no additional cost. Customers need to contact their call center or visit one of their airport counters.

Meanwhile, Skymark reported a net loss of 1.8 billion JPY for fiscal year 2013, its first full-year loss since FY2008. A roughly 3.8 billion JPY net profit was recorded for FY2012. They cited increased competition with LCCs, fuel costs remaining high, and the devaluation of the yen (JPY), as well as costs related to bringing in the A330 and the soon-to-be-delivered A380. Skymark's fleet currently consists of two A330s and 31 737-800s, with six A380s and eight more A330s on order.

Source: Skymark Airlines, May 16th. (PDF; in Japanese)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Vanilla Air cancels 154 flights in June due to pilot shortage.

On May 16th, Vanilla Air (JW/VNL) announced that they will cancel 154 flights in June due to pilot shortage. 17 round-trips for Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) – Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) and 60 round-trips for Narita – Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) are being canceled, affecting 2,551 passengers. Meanwhile, their Seoul/Incheon (ICN/RKSI) and Taipei/Taoyuan (TPE/RCTP) routes will be unaffected, again reflecting the airline's emphasis on the international market.
Vanilla Air's Airbus A320-216(SL) JA01VA at Narita. (Photo: Vanilla Air)

The boosted schedule effective June had 12 daily round-trips and called for 26 captains, however, three sick leaves and resignations forced the airline to cancel 32% of its planned flights for the month. On July 1st, the timetable will increase to 14 round-trips per day, with the launch of the Narita – Amami (ASJ/RJKA) (Vanilla Air announces Amami Oshima.), however, Vanilla Air is confident they will meet the required number of cockpit crews by hiring in four new, along with 'borrowing' two captains from sister All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA).

Passengers booked on the affected flights are being offered full refunds or re-booking (at no cost) on other Vanilla Air flights, as well as, surprisingly, ANA flights from Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) and Narita when there is no Vanilla Air flight available for over four hours after the canceled flight. Both ANA and Vanilla Air are 100%-owned subsidiaries of ANA Holdings.

Sound familiar? With Peach announcing 2,072 cancellations from May to October (Peach outlines Summer 2014 mass cancellations.) due to similar reasons, it will no doubt give LCCs negative press, and will shed light on Japan and the region's shortage of pilots.

Source: Vanilla Air, May 16th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, May 16th. (in Japanese)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Skymark's new routes suffering low load factors.

Skymark Airlines' (BC/SKY) system-wide load factor for April, the first month of the Summer 2014 schedule, was 62.1%. Available seats went up 13.4% to 840,397 while total passenger number only increased 6.1% to 521,011. While its lucrative Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) slots continue to generate positive results, their recent foray into secondary markets is hurting the bottom line. Here's a summary of some of the details.
Boeing 737-86N(WL) JA73NT prepares for another flight from Haneda. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

GREATER TOKYO
From Haneda, Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF) was at the top with 84.9% (+0.8% from 1 year ago), while Yonago (YGJ/RJOH) was lowest with 53.1% (new from April 1st). Routes that saw the seventies were Kobe (UKB/RJBE) at 70.9% and Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) at 78.5%. At Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA), Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) saw 57.0% (-0.9%) and New Chitose was at 46.0% (+17.4%). These routes see heavy competition (Skymark matches fares with LCCs at Narita.) from Jetstar Japan (GK/JJP) and Vanilla Air (JW/VNL). Its new focus city of Ibaraki (IBR/RJAH) saw new services to Fukuoka at 49.9% (new from April 18th) and Nagoya/Chubu Centrair (NGO/RJGG) at 22.8% (Skymark adds Fukuoka and Nagoya from Ibaraki.), while Kobe saw 57.1% (+2.2%).

SENDAI
Sendai's (SDJ/RJSS) new route to Kobe is showing 35.2% (new from April 1st), while Fukuoka was at 49.6% (+6.2%) and New Chitose at 39.4% (-3.3%). The Sapporo service sees competition from Air Do (HD/ADO).

YONAGO
Naha is doing the best at 46.3% (new from April 1st) (Skymark expands Yonago, axes Asahikawa and Kumamoto.), while Kobe showed 29.3%, New Chitose saw 18.7%, and Narita was at 22.2%.

OKINAWAN ISLANDS
Naha – Ishigaki (ISG/ROIG), which was launched on July 10th last year, saw 42.7%. Meanwhile, the Naha – Miyako (MMY/ROMY) route, which resumed on June 1st last year, recorded 57.8%.

As has been their profit structure (and similar for ANA and JAL as well), Haneda's 'bread-and-butter' operations account for over 80% of Skymark's revenue. Japan's third largest domestic carrier has been shifting strategy (Skymark posts loss but optimistic with strategy tweaks.) from a low-cost model to a hybrid model, as a means of survival and to differentiate itself among an increasing portfolio of LCCs. All-premium Airbus A380s and A330s (Skymark Airlines' first two Airbus A330s delivered.) will go after the affordable premium market for international and domestic, respectively, while the focus for domestic expansion is on secondary routes, where Skymark believes LCCs would not be able to produce enough yield.

President and CEO Shinichi Nishikubo reiterates that "Skymark now has (cash) strength to withstand initial losses," adding "we will not pull out in a short time like we used to." Will they be able to make these secondary markets work?

Source: Aviation Wire, May 14th. (in Japanese)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Vanilla Air targets CASK of below 7 JPY in 2016.

As Vanilla Air (JW/VNL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of ANA Holdings, continues to improve results, it is also working hard to make cost-cutting measures to reach a CASK (Cost of Available Seat-Kilometer) of under 7 JPY by 2016. Aviation Wire's recent interview of President Tomonori Ishii revealed some of his ambitions and progresses.
The tail and sharklet of Airbus A320-216(SL) JA01VA. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

The Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA)-based LCC's most recent load factors in March saw 80.6% for international, which include Seoul/Incheon (ICN/RKSI) and Taipei/Taoyuan (TPE/RCTP), and 78.0% for domestic flights, which include Naha/Okinawa (OKA/ROAH) and Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC). Mr. Ishii, an ANA veteran, is not happy yet, who explains "80% is still not enough for us, especially because of our low prices while still offering a 20-kilogram baggage allowance." Ancillary revenues account for less than 15% of their income, but Vanilla Air plans to launch travel insurance packages as well as advertisement on board to bring that figure up.

Operating only the Airbus A320 but with two different configurations isn't helping either, but they didn't have a choice when building its fleet to match its AirAsia Japan (JW/WAJ) (CoachFlyer JW8541: NRT - FUK on AirAsia Japan's Airbus A320.) days was a priority. While their first three seat 180 and are brand new, the three recently-delivered former All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) examples retain their 166-seat layout (Vanilla Air's 'LOHACO Jet' enters service.) and are also one of the oldest ranging from 22 to 23 years old. These are stopgap measures, and Vanilla Air will take delivery of three new examples between September and November this year to replace them. While load factors went up and flight completion rate improved to 99.4%, on-time arrival rate was 72.7% for March, again the worst among Japanese airlines. A standardized fleet should help that. A fleet of eight is planned by March 2015, and will be increased to 10 by March 2016.

Mr. Ishii is bullish that they would be able to reduce CASK to under 7 JPY sometime in 2016. Full service carriers ANA and Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) are at 12.9 JPY and 11.5 JPY, respectively (as of April 2013), while Skymark Airlines (BC/SKY) is at 8.4 JPY and Vanilla Air also with a similar figure, and Peach Aviation (MM/APJ) is thought to be around 9 to 10 JPY. All of Vanilla Air's staff help out at flight bank times at Narita, and they try to do everything in-house as much as possible. Turning unused lights off a its headquarters in Narita's Terminal 2 doesn't contribute much to the bottom line, however, Mr. Ishii enthuses "What's important is that low-cost-mindedness." He adds, "Many of our cost-cutting initiatives come from our employees."

Regarding route network, Amami (ASJ/RJKA) will be launched on July 1st (Vanilla Air announces Amami Oshima.), making it the first all-new route after being re-launched as Vanilla Air. Mr. Ishii admits that there would be initial start-up costs there, as the JAL Group has been the only carriers serving the airport. Work is underway for ETOPS (Extended Twin-Engined OPerationS) rating to enable them to launch Guam and possibly Saipan as well. China, including Hong Kong, and the Philippines are also being considered.

Source: Aviation Wire, May 12th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, May 13th. (in Japanese)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Skymark matches fares with LCCs at Narita.

Skymark Airlines (BC/SKY) is offering sliding scale airfares on their Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) to Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) and Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) routes for travel from May 9th through August 18th. Branded 'Sky Flex', prices will start from 8,400 JPY and 6,400 JPY, respectively, and will change depending on seat availability. As the name suggests, customers also have the flexibility to change travel dates at only the fare difference and no additional cost. However, it is not refundable.
Boeing 737-86N JA737L flew its last revenue flight with Skymark on April 10th. It was ferried to Taipei's Taoyuan Airport the following day and returned to lessor GECAS as N839TM on April 15th. She is seen here taxiing at Haneda in February 2014. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Japan's third largest domestic carrier has also introduced a new child fare for these specific routes for travel between July 22nd through August 7th, Japan's estimated peak summer vacation travel period for this year. Price has been set at 7,000 JPY for both routes and children from three to under 12 years old are eligible to purchase. Change of travel dates or cancellations prior to the departure date will not cost anything.

From Narita, competitor Jetstar Japan (GK/JJP) offers fares starting from 6,290 JPY to Naha and 5,090 JPY to New Chitose, while Vanilla Air (JW/VNL) offers 8,500 JPY and 6,500 JPY, respectively. Neither of them offer child fares, except for those under two years old, who travel free providing the infant travels on the lap of a parent.

The Narita – Yonago (YGJ/RJOH) route, for which Skymark is the sole carrier, does not see these fares. Their latest pricing system is clearly a play on Vanilla Air's fares, and it aims to lure families with children during the peak summer season by offering the lowest cost when all family members are added up. Hokkaido and Okinawa are the two most popular domestic vacation destinations. The battle of Narita has just gotten fiercer.

Source: Skymark Airlines, May 7th. (in Japanese)
Source: Skymark Airlines, May 8th. (in Japanese)

*Post edited/updated on May 11th.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

JAL introduces CargoComposites LD-3 containers.

On May 7th, Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) placed 480 new light LD-3 containers produced by CargoComposites, a division of Advanced Composite Structures, into service. Compared to previous models, it offers a 40% weight saving.
JAL's new CargoComposites LD-3 container. (Photo: JAL)

A Boeing 777-300ER carries up to 44 LD-3 containers, so it equates to a 1,804-kilogram reduction and about a 800-liter saving in fuel consumption for a one-way Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) – New York/John F. Kennedy (JFK/KJFK) service. JAL's previous containers were manufactured by Nordisk Aviation, an AAR brand, and were made from aluminum and weighed 99 kilograms. The new models are made from synthetic resin and incorporate a honeycomb structure, resulting in only 58 kilograms while also increasing durability.

Source: Japan Airlines, May 7th. (in Japanese)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Peach outlines Summer 2014 mass cancellations.

On April 30th, Peach Aviation (MM/APJ), which one week earlier announced up to 2,088 possible flight cancellations for Summer 2014 (Peach to cancel up to 2,088 flights this summer.) due to cockpit crew shortage, outlined details of the reduced operation from May 19th through October 25th.
A Peach Airbus A320 takes off. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

A total of 1,624 flights have been announced as cancellation possibilities during the period, in addition to the 448 flights already canceled between May 1st and 18th, which brings the total to 2,072. The Osaka/Kansai (KIX/RJBB)-based LCC is offering full refunds and re-bookings to their other flights.

Breakdown of Cancellations from May 1st through October 25th:
Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) – Ishigaki (ISG/ROIG): 198 flights
Kansai – Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF): 496 flights
Kansai – Hong Kong (HKG/VHHH): 46 flights
Kansai – Kagoshima (KOJ/RJFK): 304 flights
Kansai – Matsuyama (MYJ/RJOM): 242 flights
Kansai – Naha: 150 flights
Kansai – Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC): 112 flights
Kansai – Sendai (SDJ/RJSS): 466 flights
Kansai – Seoul/Incheon (ICN/RKSI): 42 flights *Only in May and June.
Kansai – Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA): 16 flights

Noteworthy routes include Kansai – Fukuoka, which saw the largest number of possible cancellations accounting for 36.9% of planned flights during this period, while the Naha – Ishigaki route saw the highest rate at a whopping 60.4%. The latter has become a low-fare battleground with Skymark Airlines (BC/SKY) as well as ANA Group and JAL-affiliate Japan Transocean Air (NU/JTA), which also lowered prices, pulling down yields. Meanwhile, routes to Taiwan, both to Taipei/Taoyuan (TPE/RCTP) and Kaohsiung (KHH/RCKH), and to Busan/Gimhae (PUS/RKPK) in South Korea, remain unaffected, reflecting their popularity. Incheon won't see any cancellations for the peak season from July as well.
 
Peach currently employs 52 Captains and 56 First Officers (Copilots), however, eight Captains are absent from work due to health-related issues, and the company's target to recruit 10 additional Captains from outside did not go as planned. Rumors of delays in in-house training of First Officers to become Captains, and flight attendants and maintenance crew shortages have been denied.

Peach has so far been the most successful of the Japanese LCCs, but how much affect these mass cancellations and the April 28th incident at Okinawa (Peach Airbus A320 narrowly avoids crash at Okinawa.) will have on the fledgling carrier is unsure, though it will most definitely be a negative one.

Source: Peach Aviation, April 24th. (PDF; in Japanese)
Source: Peach Aviation, April 30th. (PDF; in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, April 30th. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Vanilla Air delayed 2.5 hours due to nose wheel malfunction.

On the night of May 3rd, Vanilla Air (JW/VNL) flight JW806, service from Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) to Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA), was delayed two hours and a half due to nose wheel steering problems with the Airbus A320 assigned for the flight.

The airframe involved was A320-211 JA8385, originally delivered to All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) back on April 16th, 1991, and leased to the Narita-based LCC at the end of February by parent ANA Holdings. Carrying a load of 159 passengers (including three children), four flight attendants, and two cockpit crew, JW806 departed from the gate at Naha at 1904, local time. However, as it was taxiing to the runway, the nose wheel locked in the straight position and became unsteerable. After it was towed back to the terminal for maintenance and fix-up, the aircraft re-departed at 2004, an hour and 24 minutes behind its scheduled departure of 1840, and took off at 2125.

However, when the aircraft was approaching Narita, indicators displayed problems with its nose wheel again. The crew informed passengers about the technical issue and told everyone to brace for possible impact upon landing. Fortunately, JA8385 made a flawless landing on Runway 16L/34R (Runway B) at 2345 with no injuries, however, as its nose wheel could not be steered, the aircraft had to be towed to the terminal, where it arrived past midnight, over two hours and 30 minutes behind its published timetable. With all public transportation finished by this time, stranded passengers spent the night inside the terminal. Vanilla Air did not compensate for the delay in any way, following its policy. After a night's maintenance, the A320 returned to service the following morning.

This is not good publicity for the fledgling LCC, as it was also forced to cancel dozens of flights from the end of January (Vanilla Air Airbus A320 grounding forces cancellations.) due to the grounding of one of its A320s. Vanilla Air reported the problem to Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB), however, no investigations by the government regulator have been carried out as of now. The A320 has had its fair share of nose wheel steering issues, including when JetBlue Airways (B6/JBU) flight B6292 made an emergency landing at Los Angeles (LAX/KLAX) on September 21st, 2005 after the nose gear jammed in an abnormal position. 

Source: Aviation Wire, May 4th. (in Japanese)