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)

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