Monday, April 20, 2015

AirAsia admits Skymark bid defeat, Japan unit delay to 2016.

AirAsia Group has likely lost the bid to sponsor bankrupt Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] (Skymark to file for bankruptcy.), according to Tony Fernandes, group CEO of the Malaysia-based pan-Asian LCC. Several reliable sources confirmed on April 18th that Japan's embattled third largest carrier had selected ANA Holdings, parent of All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA], from over 20 sponsorship proposals (Skymark accedes to ANA investment.). AirAsia [AK/AXM] was the only other airline that had submitted a plan (ANA and AirAsia bid to save Skymark.). 

Airbus A320-216(SL) JA04AJ of AirAsia Japan (Mk I) arrives at Chubu Centrair on delivery on March 29th, 2013. It now flies with AirAsia (Malaysia) as 9M-AQX. The failed original joint-venture (JV) between AirAsia and ANA had also designated Nagoya a hub, but is Kansai also on the cards for the second incarnation? (Photo: Aviation Wire)

"We had a look at it, but I think we lost that... it's complicated, so we don't think our suggestion is going to go through," Mr. Fernandes told during an interview at the World Economic Forum in Jakarta on April 19th. ANA Holdings will control just under 20% in Skymark, effectively putting the carrier's lucrative 36 domestic slot-pairs at heavily-regulated Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] at the disposal of Japan's largest airline. "It's a protective measure," said Shinya Katanozaka, President of ANA Holdings, which would now dominate 60% of Haneda's domestic slots, including those of similarly part-owned de facto subsidiaries AIRDO [HD/ADO] (d.b.a. Air Do), Skynet Asia Airways [6J/SNJ] (d.b.a. Solaseed Air), and Star Flyer [7G/SFJ]. 

"I don't think that's good for Japan. They're going to end up with two airlines (ANA & JAL), really. And so hopefully AirAsia Japan (Mk II) can inject a little more choice," Mr. Fernandes said, again adding "We were really interested in Skymark, but I don't think it's going to happen." Along with ANA and Japan Airlines [JL/JAL], Japan's governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is opposed to foreign presence in Haneda's domestic market, let alone a LCC with foreign affiliation, making it difficult for overseas carriers to invest in carriers holding slots at the downtown Tokyo airport. And the LDP wanting to portrait then-Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-controlled government's massive bailout of JAL from their 2010 bankruptcy a misuse of taxpayer's money put ANA in the only position to assist Skymark. Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA], which opened its LCC terminal earlier this month (Narita opens Tokyo's LCC gateway: Terminal 3.), is also lobbying against letting LCCs into Haneda.

Mr. Fernandes, who was named as one of the 100 most influential persons in the world by TIME magazine, also admitted that AirAsia Japan's (Mk II) (AirAsia Japan is officially reborn; first flight June 2015.) launch would be delayed to early 2016 due to certification by the Japanese regulators taking much longer than expected. "We're going through the application process now, and we're very confident in our model. It has taken longer, because I think there are a few more airlines, and the regulators want to go through all their rules and regulations, but we're on schedule to start early next year," confirmed Mr. Fernandes. Their first aircraft was due this summer (New AirAsia Japan's first Airbus A320 due in July.) with a potential hub at Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG] (AirAsia Japan selects Nagoya Chubu Centrair.), though Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] is also a possibility now that sister AirAsia X [D7/XAX] has applied for a link between Kuala Lumpur/Sepang [KUL/WMKK] and Honolulu [HNL/PHNL] via Kansai.

Source: CNBC, April 20th. (in English)

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