Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Spring Airlines Japan to drop Takamatsu.

On August 21st, Spring Airlines Japan [IJ/SJO] announced that they will suspend Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] – Takamatsu [TAK/RJOT] effective October 25th, the start of the Winter 2015/2016 timetable. The Japanese affiliate of China's largest LCC only launched revenue flights in August 2014 with three routes from their hub at Narita (Spring Airlines Japan commences operations.), and this axing would reduce that number to just two: Hiroshima [HIJ/RJOA] and Saga [HSG/RJFS].

Boeing 737-86N(WL) JA02GR at Takamatsu. (Photo: Spring Airlines Japan)

When the fledgling LCC initially launched operations on August 1st last year, Takamatsu was served daily from Narita, competing head to head with rival Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP], which flies the route up to twice daily. However, load factors turned out to be well below the 80% target set by the carrier, and Spring Japan slashed frequency to four times weekly on March 29th (Spring Japan cuts flights but hopeful for China in 2015.). The days matched Spring Airlines' [9C/CQH] service to Takamatsu from Shanghai/Pudong [PVG/ZSPD], which commands a nearly 95% load factor, to help raise brand awareness and lure Chinese travelers.

The young LCC blames the lack of brand recognition; this is very important in Japan where brand affinity counts so much, and all the more on secondary routes. Even for Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] and Jetstar Japan, simply offering lower fares hasn't been enough to persuade travelers to choose a non-ANA/JAL carrier on domestic flights from airports that are farther away from the city and have mostly catered for international services, such as Narita and Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB]. Thus Spring Japan's Winter 2015/2016 timetable, at least until January 31st, 2016, would be reduced to merely three flights a day with a fleet of three 189-seat Boeing 737-800s, further hurting an already low aircraft utilization rate.

For now, it will maintain twice-daily service to Hiroshima and daily to Saga. The former sees limited direct competition from All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] franchise carrier IBEX Airlines [FW/IBX], which mostly carries ANA's international – domestic transfer traffic on their daily Bombardier CRJ-700NG service, while the latter route sees none. However, the airline is reportedly preparing to launch Kansai and Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC] as early as February, shifting its focus to high-demand (and highly competitive) trunk routes from secondary markets (Spring Airlines Japan plans Kansai, Sapporo, and China.). Its first international destinations, likely Chongqing [CKG/ZUCK] and Wuhan [WUH/ZHHH], are also planned before the end of 2015 (Spring Japan considering Chongqing and Wuhan.).

Source: Spring Airlines Japan, 2015 August 21st. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, 2015 August 21st. (in Japanese)

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