Thursday, July 30, 2015

Spring Airlines Japan plans Kansai, Sapporo, and China.

Spring Airlines Japan [IJ/SJO] is poised to add Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] and Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC] along with multiple Chinese cities during the Winter 2015/2016 timetable, which starts on October 25th. From their hub at Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA], Kansai will be served twice daily and New Chitose once daily. Chongqing [CKG/ZUCK] and Wuhan [WUH/ZHHH] are expected to become their first international destinations (Spring Japan cuts flights but hopeful for China in 2015.). Details will officially be released in late August.

Boeing 737-81D(WL) N272LM/JA01GR climbs on a pre-delivery test flight. Spring Japan's fleet of three Baby Boeings has remained the same since launching operations. (Photo: Spring Airlines Japan)

Kansai is natural considering Spring Airlines [9Q/CQH], which owns 48% (33% of voting rights) of the Japanese unit, already boasts nonstop services from there to 10 Chinese cities: Chengdu [CTU/ZUUU], Chongqing, Qingdao [TAO/ZSQD], Quanzhou [JJN/ZSQZ], Shanghai/Pudong [PVG/ZSPD], Tianjin [TSN/ZBTJ], Wuhan, Xian [XIY/ZLXY], and Zhengzhou [CGO/ZHCC]. Spring has ambitious plans to turn Kansai into a hub, flying 100 weekly flights to 20 Chinese destinations by 2020. Meanwhile, New Chitose is also served by China's biggest LCC five times weekly from Shanghai/Pudong.

Using a small fleet of three 189-seat Boeing 737-800s, Spring Japan only started operations last August (Spring Airlines Japan commences operations.) and currently flies from Narita to Hiroshima [HIJ/RJOA] twice daily, Saga [HSG/RJFS] daily, and Takamatsu [TAK/RJOT] four times weekly. These secondary routes are still unprofitable, except maybe for Hiroshima. It reported a 4.92 billion JPY loss for 2014, and its Chinese parent had injected 900 million JPY last December in the form of third-party allocation of non-voting stocks (Spring Japan posts heavy loss but mulls Asia expansion.).

Spring Japan's original mission had been to tap into secondary Chinese markets carrying mostly Chinese tourists to the Kanto (Greater Tokyo) region, as batch of slots and rights don't come easily for foreign carriers at Narita, much less at Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT]. Hence it hasn't emphasized expanding in Japan's domestic market compared to other LCCs such as Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP] and Peach Aviation [MM/APJ]. However, Spring Japan will likely connect its Chinese parent's destinations in Japan as with Kansai, Saga, New Chitose, and Takamatsu, and has publicly stated international flights will not only serve China but Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia as well in the long term.

Source: Traicy, 2015 July 28th. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Air Do is coming to Hiroshima and Nagoya.

On July 21st, AIRDO [HD/ADO] (d.b.a. Air Do) announced that they will launch three new routes on October 25th; daily Hakodate [HKD/RJCH] – Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG], daily Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC] – Hiroshima [HIJ/RJOA], and three-times-daily New Chitose – Chubu Centrair. It would be the first time the Hokkaido-based carrier flies into Hiroshima and Nagoya. Both 144-seat Boeing 737-700s and 126-seat 737-500s will be deployed. Details of the schedule will be revealed in late August.

Boeing 737-781(WL) JA07AN is one of six in Air Do's fleet. All 737s (along with two 767-300s) are supplied by ANA, and another 737-700 will be transferred in exchange for Air Do returning its two remaining 737-500s to ANA in January 2016. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Air Do's current destinations west of Tokyo are Kobe [UKB/RJBE] and Okayama [OKJ/RJOB], both served from New Chitose, twice daily and once daily, respectively. The routes were virtually transferred from minority shareholder and strategic partner All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA], subsidiary of ANA Holdings, which controls 14% of the Sapporo-headquartered niche airline. Together with the 32% held by ANA's long-time financial partner Development Bank of Japan, the mega-carrier virtually controls 46%.

At present, New Chitose – Chubu Centrair sees ANA flying seven daily round-trips and Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] 5.5 (11 legs), while Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] and LCC Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP] each operate twice daily. New Chitose – Hiroshima is served by ANA and JAL with one daily round-trip each, while Hakodate – Chubu Centrair is flown only by ANA with two daily round-trips. Air Do code-shares with ANA throughout its network and closely coordinates flights. As with previously-launched new routes, it will likely coincide with ANA's reduction of a similar number of frequencies on the routes. 

Source: AIRDO, 2015 July 21st. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, 2015 July 21st. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

AirAsia Japan confirms Spring 2016 launch from Nagoya.

On July 21st, AirAsia Japan (Mk II) officially applied for an Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) with the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB). Although a change in business strategy along with rigorous document preparations have resulted in an eight-month delay (AirAsia admits Skymark bid defeat, Japan unit delay to 2016.), the regulator is expected to grant permission as early as October. The reincarnation of AirAsia's Japanese unit will launch operations in March or April 2016 with both domestic and international routes from Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG] using 180-seat Airbus A320s (AirAsia Japan selects Nagoya Chubu Centrair.).

Seen departing Fukuoka in October 2013, AirAsia Japan's (Mk I) Airbus A320-214 JA02AJ has since been transferred to Indonesia AirAsia as PK-AZI. The first aircraft for AirAsia Japan (Mk II), A320-216(SL) JA01DJ (MSN 6702), has already completed its maiden flight from Toulouse. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Its initial routes are expected to be Fukuoka [FUK/RJFF], Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC], and Seoul/Incheon [ICN/RKSI], all former routes of the defunct first AirAsia Japan (Mk I) [JW/WAJ] (CoachFlyer JW8541: NRT - FUK on AirAsia Japan's Airbus A320.). Sendai [SDJ/RJSS] (New AirAsia Japan mulls Nagoya – Sendai.) and Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP] will be added shortly after. Japan's latest LCC will establish regional international routes before adding more domestic destinations. Routes will officially be revealed in November, followed shortly by ticket sales start. Sister AirAsia X [D7/XAX], which suspended Kuala Lumpur/Sepang [KUL/WMKK] – Chubu Centrair in February, will also reinstate the link and help feed the Japanese unit.

AirAsia Japan (Mk II) will start with a pair of A320s supplied from the huge AirAsia Group order pool, and plans to build its fleet to six by the end of 2016. Five aircraft will be added each year onwards; 11 aircraft by the end of 2017 and 16 by the end of 2018. If demand warrants, they have the option to add two additional A320s by the end of 2018. All of the planned machines are too much for just the Nagoya market, and AirAsia Japan (Mk II) will continue to push for daytime slots at heavily-regulated Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT]. Their first attempt failed when AirAsia's [AK/AXM] bid for bankrupt Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] was rejected (ANA and AirAsia bid to save Skymark.). The government is willing to expand Haneda's slots as soon as it reaches accords with business districts and densely-populated areas where aircraft will overfly, hopefully in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics.

Nagoya is the third largest metropolitan area in Japan, however, its proximity to the Kansai (Greater Osaka) region and Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] has left Chubu Centrair underutilized. Along with Kansai, Chubu Centrair is also a 24-hour airport but with ample slots available, and AirAsia Japan (Mk II) is initially staying away from hotly-contested Kansai, which sees Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] and Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP] (Jetstar Japan launches Kansai hub.) established along with a plethora of foreign LCCs competing. However, overlaps will come in due course as all LCCs continue to expand, and some rivalry is inevitable as Jetstar Japan already operates from Chubu Centrair to Fukuoka, Kagoshima [KOJ/RJFK], Kumamoto [KMJ/RJFT], Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH], and New Chitose (Jetstar Japan commences Nagoya – Okinawa.).

Leading AirAsia Japan (Mk II) is CEO Yoshinori Odagiri, who also headed the first version of the Japanese unit. Although originally an ANA veteran, he has since departed Japan's largest carrier to pursue "unfinished business" under the AirAsia brand. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

AirAsia Group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes had said that AirAsia Japan (Mk II) would likely become the biggest contributor to the budget airline group within the next few years as it formed a cornerstone for the network's global aspirations. "With Japan, we don't only need to limit ourselves to Asia. Flights to Vancouver in Canada and Hawaii and the U.S. west coast are now possible. This means we're well on our way towards becoming a global airline," adding "Japan and India are key for us as they can be launching pads for expansion beyond Asia." Keeping up to Mr. Fernandes' ambitions, AirAsia X [D7/XAX] has applied to extend its Kuala Lumpur – Kansai link to Honolulu [HNL/PHNL] for launch as early as November. It would be a litmus test before launching direct flights to the U.S. west coast.

AirAsia Japan (Mk I) was a joint-venture with All Nippon Airways' [NH/ANA] parent ANA Holdings, which was terminated in June 2013 over differences in decision-making. It was subsequently re-branded Vanilla Air [JW/VNL] under full ANA control (Vanilla Air launches operations.). AirAsia's Japanese unit was officially reborn last July under the leadership of CEO Yoshinori Odagiri, who also headed the first incarnation, and CFO Osamu Hata, who previously worked with Dell Japan (AirAsia Japan is officially reborn; first flight June 2015.). Shareholding-wise, Malaysia's AirAsia controls 49%, Octave Japan Infrastructure Fund 19%, Rakuten 18%, Noevir Holdings 9%, and Alpen 5%, though voting-rights-based, AirAsia will hold 33%, the maximum allowed under Japan's current foreign ownership laws, while Octave will have 28.2%, Rakuten 18%, Noevir 13.4%, and Alpen 7.4%.
Source: Rakyat Post, 2014 July 16th. (in English)
Source: Toyo Keizai, 2015 July 21st. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, 2015 July 21st. (in Japanese) 
Source: Nikkei Shimbun, 2015 July 21st. (in Japanese)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Solaseed Air reveals Miyazaki – Kaohsiung charter.

On July 17th, Skynet Asia Airways [6J/SNJ] (d.b.a. Solaseed Air) announced plans for its first international charter flight, where it will operate two round-trips between Miyazaki [KMI/RJFM] and Kaohsiung [KHH/RCKH] in October. 174-seat Boeing 737-800s will be assigned, however, approximately only 150 seats will be available for sale.

Boeing 737-86N(WL) JA811X taxies at Tokyo's Haneda. With LCCs gaining ground, opportunities in the domestic market outside its partnership with ANA have decreased for small mid-cost airlines, prompting Solaseed to turn to international point-to-point charters to increase revenue. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

The flight will be operated as part of a three-night four-day packaged tour both ways. Miyazaki's local transportation company Miyakoh Group, which owns 24% of Solaseed, will be responsible for marketing in Japan, while JPK International Air Service, based in Taipei, has been contracted for sales in Taiwan.

Flight Schedule:
Miyazaki – Kaohsiung charter with 737-800.
6J**** KMI 0850 – 1020 KHH 73H Oct/17 *Flight numbers undecided.
6J**** KMI 1155 – 1325 KHH 73H Oct/20
6J**** KHH 1130 – 1440 KMI 73H Oct/17
6J**** KHH 1435 – 1745 KMI 73H Oct/20

Last October, Solaseed's President Hiroshi Takahashi had revealed that international charters were in the works (Solaseed Air eyes international charters in FY2015.). Although Miyazaki receives a three-times weekly flight from Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP] with China Airlines [CI/CAL], that is the only destination in Taiwan. Mandarin Airlines [AE/MDA] operated a round-trip charter linking Miyazaki and Kaohsiung back in July 2010.

Marketing itself as The Wing of Kyushu and Okinawa, Solaseed currently flies 68 daily domestic flights covering 10 routes and 10 destinations using a dozen 737-800s. Their entire domestic network code-shares and is closely coordinated with All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] (Solaseed Air expands Okinawa with Ishigaki and Nagoya.), whose parent ANA Holdings controls roughly 9% of Solaseed, though that figure is virtually 35% when combined with the shares Development Bank of Japan, a long-time ANA partner, controls. It will change its official name to Solaseed Air effective December 1st (Skynet Asia to officially change name to Solaseed Air.).

Source: Skynet Asia Airways, July 17th. (in English)
Source: Aviation Wire, July 17th. (in Japanese)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

ANA announces Haneda – Sydney.

On July 16th, All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] announced that they will start Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] – Sydney/Kingsford Smith [SYD/YSSY] from December 11th. 215-seat (48 business and 167 economy class) Boeing 787-9s will be assigned to the route. At the same time, Japan's largest carrier also signed an interline agreement with local Virgin Australia Airlines [VA/VOZ] for onward connections and baggage handling, and is evaluating upgrading the relationship to a code-share.

Boeing 787-9 JA830A prepares for departure from Itami. This domestic-configured 787-9 seats 395, comprised of 18 Premium Class and 377 economy class. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

The outbound flight is timed late in the evening to receive feed from ANA's extensive domestic network at Haneda, while the return leg arrives early in the morning, allowing for onward domestic connections. The new services utilizes Haneda's night-time international slots.

Flight Schedule:
Haneda – Syndey/Kingsford Smith NEW 1 daily with 787-9. (Dec/11 -)
NH879 HND 2210 – 0935(+1) SYD 789 Daily
NH880 SYD 2130 – 0505(+1) HND 789 Daily

ANA first launched Aussie service in November 1987, when it started flying Tokyo/Narita [NRT] – Sydney nonstop. The outbound leg soon flew via Brisbane [BNE/YBBN] and the service operated six-times weekly until its suspension in June 1998. Meanwhile, Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] – Syndey was launched in November 1994, and operated twice weekly until March 1999. ANA's new service ends a 16-year hiatus in the Oceania market.

Business between the two nations have increased especially after both sides signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which came into effect in January this year. ANA would become the second airline to enter the Haneda – Sydney market after Qantas Airways [QF/QFA], which is also launching the route on August 1st with a daily round-trip.

Source: All Nippon Airways, July 16th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, July 16th. (in Japanese)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Intrepid picks Delta to sponsor Skymark.

On July 15th, Intrepid Aviation, Skymark Airlines' [BC/SKY] largest creditor (Skymark to file for bankruptcy.), announced that they had selected Delta Air Lines [DL/DAL] to sponsor Japan's bankrupt third largest airline in the leasing company's own rehabilitation proposal (Skymark and Intrepid submit rivaling revival plans.), challenging the scheme submitted jointly by ANA Holdings, parent of All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA], and Skymark (Skymark gives in to ANA; Japan reverts to duopoly.). 133 representatives from 81 creditors attended the press conference. The 197 debt holders will vote which plan to endorse (ANA/Skymark and Intrepid battle for creditors' votes.) either at the creditors' meeting on August 5th, or by paper that would need to be submitted by July 24th.

Boeing 737-8HX(WL) JA73NP taxies at Haneda. Skymark is the third largest holder of domestic slots at the heavily-regulated Tokyo airport, controlling 36 slot-pairs, or 8%. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Although Intrepid's initial plan called for the entire 18 billion JPY cash injection to be made by Integral Corporation, the updated scheme calls for an investment by Delta that would be no larger than 20%. The maximum share foreign carriers can own in Japanese airlines is 33.3% based on voting rights, however, an ownership change exceeding 20% would require Skymark to relinquish all of their 36 slot-pairs at Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT]. Delta's Managing Director for Japan Masaru Morimoto said "We can assist them in revamping their reservations system (to enable code-shares) and frequent flyer services (Skymark has none), and enhancing the passenger experience. Revenue management is also something we can help."

Delta has been disadvantaged in the Japan – U.S. market against rivals American Airlines [AA/AAL] and United Airlines [UA/UAL], which enjoy joint-ventures (JVs) with Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] in Oneworld and ANA in Star Alliance, respectively. It furiously went after JAL when the flag carrier went bankrupt in 2010 and talks have been held with Skymark on various occasions. Delta currently does have a frequent flyer partnership with Skymark, though very limited, where its domestic flights are available for redemption through SkyMiles. Network-wise, there are little synergies, as Delta's biggest presence in Japan is at Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA], which was completely dropped by Skymark last October (Skymark announces Narita closure and Yonago cuts.). Skymark's main focus is at Haneda, where Delta will soon only have a single late-night flight to Los Angeles [LAX/KLAX], which is not timed for connections. The Seattle-Tacoma [SEA/KSEA] slot-pair is being forfeited.

However, nine daytime international slot-pairs thought to be for U.S. services remain unallocated at Haneda due to disagreements between the authorities, and Delta may have that in mind. It has long been rumored that Delta is the main lobbying power that is blocking the allocation of these precious slots, as the new flights would allow international – domestic connections, fully taking advantage of the JVs at ANA/United and JAL/American. Without a Japanese partner, Delta would be at a disadvantage. Meanwhile, Delta is also in advanced talks with SkyTeam partner Korean Air [KE/KAL] for a deeper partnership if not a JV, and it is unsure what effect the Atlanta-based carrier's involvement in Skymark would have on the discussions. In the long run, Japan is a shrinking market and the bigger focus is on China, evidenced by U.S. carriers adding more nonstop flights to the most populous nation, overflying the land of the rising sun.

Airbus A330-323X N820NW at Narita. Delta operates 21 A330-300s and 11 A330-200s inherited from Northwest Airlines and powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, while deliveries of 10 newly-ordered high-gross-weight A330-300s, powered by General Electric engines, have started. Skymark's A330s are powered by Rolls-Royce. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Provided Intrepid's proposal goes through at the August 5th meeting and Japanese regulators accept Delta's involvement, the U.S.-based aircraft leasing firm would voluntarily withdraw 30 billion JPY out of a demand that Skymark pay 115 billion JPY to the lessor for scrapping leases on seven Airbus A330s (Skymark terminates all Airbus A330 leases.). Intrepid says that would free at least 1.5 billion JPY to be repaid back to the creditors, bringing the repayment rate up to 5.5%, which is more than that figure of the ANA/Skymark plan. Talks are still continuing regarding Delta taking up the seven displaced A330s, but if that bears fruit, it would significantly reduce Skymark's debt, 38% of which is accounted for by Intrepid, further pushing up the repayment rate.

"We feel confident that this plan provides a better solution to the creditors, so we are quite hopeful that the plan will be accepted," said Franklin Pray, Intrepid's President and CEO. However, he admitted that neither Integral nor Skymark could be brought to the table for discussions so far. The reality is the two companies currently participating in the ANA/Skymark proposal are likely unable to respond to Intrepid's requests, as they have already signed a contract with ANA. Nobuo Sayama, President of Integral has said "We made a binding agreement with ANA, so we must execute that," though adding "I hope what is selected is best for Skymark." Integral and Skymark were initially vehemently against ANA sponsorship, so the truth may be that they are hoping for the Intrepid plan to go through, though publicly, they are obliged to support ANA.

Intrepid had initially welcomed ANA's involvement when Japan's largest carrier reportedly talked positively about inducting Skymark's A330s, however, outraged after the lessor learned ANA would not take them up, it decided to submit its own proposal to rival that of ANA's (Skymark and Intrepid submit rivaling revival plans.). On June 15th, the Tokyo District Court approved both plans for voting (Skymark/ANA and Intrepid both given go-ahead by court.). Intrepid's blueprint had lacked concreteness without an airline sponsor as it was still talking with several overseas carriers, however, by July it had narrowed down the candidates to just Delta and Qantas Airways [QF/QFA]. Now with the world's largest airline by passenger numbers backing the plan and Intrepid boasting likelihood of a higher repayment rate, business-wise, the Intrepid/Delta plan seems more appealing to the debt holders.

Boeing 767-381/ER(WL) JA620A at Narita. While the ANA/Skymark proposal would give ANA direct/indirect control over a dominant 60% of domestic slots at Haneda (the remaining 40% is controlled by JAL), the Intrepid/Delta scheme would ensure Skymark remains Japan's third force independent from ANA and JAL, retaining competition. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

However, the outcome still remains very unclear. Intrepid, along with Airbus (Skymark's Airbus A380 order in jeopardy.) and Rolls-Royce, and maybe CIT Aerospace as well, which together claim roughly 96% of Skymark's debt (Skymark's total debts skyrocket to 300 billion JPY.), are likely to endorse the Delta-backed plan. However, most other creditors are Japanese companies and are much smaller businesses. These firms have admitted that they have received strong lobbying from ANA to support the ANA/Skymark plan, and not uncommon in Japan, most of the Japanese creditors may choose a smoother future relationship with the big bossy kid on the block over a minimally higher repayment rate. A proposal is required to win approval of a majority of debt holders, not only in terms of the proportion of liabilities but also the number of creditors as well, and if neither proposal garners enough tallies to meet the requirement, another vote will be held within two months.

Source: Nikkei Shimbun, July 14th. (in Japanese) 
Source: Reuters, July 14th. (in English) 
Source: Nikkei Shimbun, July 15th. (in Japanese)
Source: Reuters, July 15th. (in English)
Source: Nikkei Shimbun, July 15th. (in Japanese)
Source: Nikkei Shimbun, July 15th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, July 15th. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

JAL Happy Journey Express enters service.

On July 14th, Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] placed Happy Journey Express, the airline's fourth generation of Disney-themed special livery aircraft, into service. Boeing 737-846(WL) JA318J, seating 20 in Class J (domestic business) and 145 in economy, became the first example to receive the treatment. Three additional domestic-configured aircraft will wear similar decals, and the quartet will fly in the color scheme through April 2016.

Boeing 737-846(WL) JA318J Happy Journey Express climbs from Haneda bound for Matsuyama on her inaugural flight with the decals. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Inside the aircraft, headrest covers feature Duffy, and for young flyers, JAL will hand out specially-designed plastic folders with a picture of Disney's popular stuffed bear character. Postcards showing off the special livery will also be available for free. The inaugural flight was JL435, service from Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] to Matsuyama [MYJ/RJOM], which departed from Spot 4 in Terminal 1 at 1256 JST carrying 97 passengers, four flight attendants, and two pilots. It touched down at the Shikoku airport at 1414.

A collaboration between JAL and Oriental Land, operator of Tokyo Disney Resort, the special color scheme celebrates the 10th anniversary of Journey With Duffy at Tokyo DisneySea. Disney themes have appeared on JAL airplanes in 1994, 2001, and 2013 (JAL winding down Disney Happiness Express ops.). Which flights the aircraft would be assigned to would be posted on their website on the prior evening. The second aircraft, slated to be 737-846(WL) JA327J, will enter service on July 22nd, followed by the third, to be 737-846(WL) JA341J, on August 1st, and the fourth in September.

Source: Japan Airlines, June 25th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, July 14th. (in Japanese)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Fuji Dream Embraer E175 loses cabin pressure over Akita.

On July 7th, Fuji Dream Airlines [JH/FDA] flight JH212 from Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC] bound for Matsumoto [MMJ/RJAF] made an emergency landing at Niigata [KIJ/RJSN] en route, due to a warning light indicated a problem with the bleed air system. Aircraft involved was Embraer ERJ170-200/STD (E175) JA06FJ Purple, carrying 67 passengers, three flight attendants, and two pilots.

Embraer ERJ170-200/STD (E175) JA06FJ Purple at Fukuoka. Fuji Dream Airlines' fleet is currently comprised of three 76-seat E170s and six 84-seat E175s. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

JH212 departed the gate at New Chitose on time at 1430 JST and took off at 1444. Around 1524 when the aircraft was cruising over Akita prefecture, a warning light indicating a malfunction with the bleed air system came on, followed by a loss of cabin pressure. Declaring emergency, oxygen masks were deployed, and the airplane descended to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), before diverting to Niigata, where it performed a safe touchdown at 1547.

Nobody was injured, and there were no abnormal odors or noises on the aircraft, according to FDA. Regulator Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) has designated the occurrence as a "major incident," which could have led to an accident. The Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) is investigating the matter.

Source: Fuji Dream Airlines, July 8th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, July 8th. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

ANA/Skymark and Intrepid battle for creditors' votes.

On July 7th, bankrupt Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] (Skymark to file for bankruptcy.) and ANA Holdings, parent of All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA], jointly held a closed meeting for creditors to persuade them to endorse the ANA-backed rehabilitation plan (Skymark gives in to ANA; Japan reverts to duopoly.) on August 5th, when the voting will take place. On June 15th, the Tokyo District Court approved both the ANA-sponsored proposal and the rival plan submitted by creditor Intrepid Aviation which does not involve Japan's largest airline (Skymark/ANA and Intrepid both given go-ahead by court.).

Boeing 737-82Y(WL) JA737Z arrives at Haneda, where Skymark controls 36 lucrative slot-pairs. Adding Skymark to ANA's portfolio of de facto puppets Air Do, Solaseed Air, and Star Flyer would have them control a dominant 60% of domestic slots at Haneda. With the remaining 40% controlled by JAL, it would effectively bring back duopoly to Japan's most important airport, virtually wiping out competition. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Both proposals call for a 18 billion JPY injection, however, the ANA/Skymark scheme proposes Integral Corporation to contribute 50.1%, UDS Airlines Investment 33.4%, and ANA Holdings 16.5%, while the Intrepid plan would have Integral pay the entire 100% and the unnamed non-Japanese airline partner would assist through a non-investment sponsorship. This would avoid any political obstacles, as the government is still uncomfortable about foreign ownership of domestic airlines holding Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] slots. Meanwhile, UDS is jointly owned by ANA's long-time partner financial firms Development Bank of Japan and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking, so the ANA/Skymark proposal translates to ANA virtually controlling 49.1%.

Nobuo Sayama, President of investment firm Integral Corporation, and Toyoyuki Nagamine, Senior Executive Officer of ANA, reportedly reiterated the details and called for creditors' support, criticizing the rival proposal submitted by creditor Intrepid (Skymark and Intrepid submit rivaling revival plans.) as being unrealistic, having not decided on an airline sponsor as of yet. Asked by creditors whether the embattled carrier would lose its role as Japan's third force through an ANA sponsorship, Mr. Nagamine responded "Skymark will decide fares, routes, and frequencies on their own, so their independence is assured. I don't think an overseas carrier can provide the quality of support ANA can." However, Mr. Sayama said "We made a binding agreement with ANA, so we must execute that," adding "I hope what is selected is best for Skymark." Integral and Skymark were initially vehemently against ANA sponsorship, so the truth may be that they are hoping for the Intrepid plan to go through.

Intrepid will also hold a similar meeting on July 15th to convince creditors that its proposal without ANA involvement would keep Skymark as the third force fully independent from the incumbents. It is also boasting the likelihood of a higher repayment rate, as the yet-to-be-named airline sponsor would take Skymark's displaced Airbus A330s (Skymark terminates all Airbus A330 leases.), which would greatly reduce the debt they owe Intrepid. Although Delta Air Lines [DL/DAL] has so far been the only disclosed candidate, the aircraft leasing firm says it has narrowed down the number of potential sponsors to two, saying they are (1) premier international carriers, (2) established in the Japan market, and (3) committed to Skymark's independence and growth as Japan's third force. Is it AirAsia [AK/AXM] (AirAsia admits Skymark bid defeat, Japan unit delay to 2016.) and Delta? Will Intrepid reveal the sponsor on July 15th?

Attending the ANA/Skymark meeting were 134 representatives from 80 creditors, from a total of 197. At the August 5th creditors' vote, a proposal is required to win approval of a majority of debt holders, both in terms of the proportion of liabilities and the number of creditors. With Intrepid, Airbus (Skymark's Airbus A380 order in jeopardy.), Rolls-Royce, and CIT Aerospace claiming approximately 38%, 29%, 16%, and 14% of Skymark's debt, respectively (Skymark's total debts skyrocket to 300 billion JPY.), the decision of the second, third, and fourth largest creditors is crucial. However, it is unlikely the three will reveal its preference until the last minute to let the two plans compete and squeeze out the best deal (repayment rate) possible. If neither proposal garners enough tallies to meet the requirement, another vote will be held within two months.

Source: Jiji Press, July 7th. (in Japanese)
Source: NHK, July 7th. (in Japanese)
Source: Nikkei Shimbun, July 7th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, July 7th. (in Japanese)

Monday, July 6, 2015

JAL's Boeing 787-9 enters service.

On July 1st, Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] inaugurated Boeing 787-9 operations with Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] – Jakarta/Soukarno-Hatta [CGK/WIII] becoming its first route. The first revenue flight was JL725, which departed Narita's Spot 91 at 1051 JST. Their first stretched Dreamliner had been delivered on June 11th (JAL takes delivery of first Boeing 787-9.).

Boeing 787-9 JA861J moments before rotation from Narita's Runway 16R for her first revenue flight bound for Jakarta wearing JAL Sky Suite 787 decals. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Boasting a 6.1-meter-longer fuselage compared to the shorter 787-8, JAL's 787-9 seats 34 additional passengers in a three-class layout of JAL's award-winning Sky Suite product (JAL's Sky Suite 787 makes debut.); 44 Sky Suite (business), 35 Sky Premium (premium economy), and 116 Sky Wider II (economy) seats, totaling 195. It will be placed on medium and long-haul international routes.

JAL has ordered 25 787-8s and 20 787-9s, of which 22 and one have been delivered, respectively. During FY2015, Japan's second largest carrier will take delivery of two more 787-9s, with one each arriving in October and February, and one 787-8, arriving in December. All are deployed on international routes.

Source: Aviation Wire, July 1st. (in Japanese)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

ANA to launch Narita – Brussels in October.

On July 1st, All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] revealed that they will launch Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] – Brussels/Zaventem [BRU/EBBR] on October 25th (ANA announces Narita – Brussels.). It will be operated daily using 169-seat three-class Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners. At the same time, their Narita – Paris/Charles de Gaulle [CDG/LFPG] route will be suspended (ANA to cancel Narita – Paris; up-gauges Haneda link.).

Boeing 787-8 JA823A at Haneda. This is a long-haul-configured Dreamliner seating 169 in a three-class layout. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

According to ANA, approximately 90,000 passengers travel from Japan to the EU capital each year, with most of them currently transferring through or using trains from Amsterdam/Schiphol [AMS/EHAM] and Paris/Charles de Gaulle.

Flight Schedule:
Narita – Brussels/Zaventem NEW 1 daily with 787-8. (2015/Oct/25 - 2016/Mar/26)
NH231 NRT 1115 – 1515 BRU 788 Daily
NH232 BRU 2050 – 1610(+1) NRT 788 Daily

Brussels becomes ANA's sixth destination in Europe after Düsseldorf [DUS/EDDL], Frankfurt/Main [FRA/EDDF], Munich [MUC/EDDM], London/Heathrow [LHR/EGLL], and Paris/Charles de Gaulle [CDG/LFPG]. Japan's largest carrier is also planning to offer onward connections using Brussels Airlines [SN/BEL], a Star Alliance partner.

Brussels Airlines' predecessor Sabena [SN/SAB] used to operate four-times-weekly Airbus A340 services between the two cities until October 28th, 2001, just over a week before closing its doors. The capital of Belgium is home to the EU and the NATO, and houses various financial institutions as well. 2015 will mark 150 years of friendship between Japan and Belgium.

Source: All Nippon Airways, July 1st. (in Japanese)