Saturday, September 5, 2015

Peach Aviation starts Okinawa – Seoul.

On September 4th, Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] launched Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH] – Seoul/Incheon [ICN/RKSI] (Peach announces Okinawa – Seoul.). Operated by 180-seat Airbus A320-200s, the daily service became their fifth route out of their Naha hub (Peach launches Naha hub; but Naha – Ishigaki axed.). Japan's so far most successful LCC already serves the South Korean capital three times daily from Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB].

Airbus A320-214 JA808P departs on Peach's inaugural flight from Naha to Incheon. It boasts a modest fleet of 16 A320s. Their 17th will arrive in November, followed by one aircraft each in March, July, and November next year for a total of 20. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Inaugural flight MM905 departed Naha at 1304 JST with 151 passengers, including five children. Along with locals, many American workers at Okinawa's U.S. bases were also on the flight. Aircraft assigned was A320-214 JA808P, which arrived at Incheon 17 minutes late at 1532 due to traffic congestion. Return leg MM906 left Incheon at 1611 carrying a full load of 180 passengers, including three children, and arrived at Naha at 1824.

"Unlike the majors, Peach's target is younger travelers. We're seeing repeaters," said Shinichi Inoue, CEO of the Kansai-headquartered LCC, when asked about expansion in the Japan – South Korea market, which has seen Japanese incumbents reducing capacity due to political tensions and territorial disputes. Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA]-based sister LCC Vanilla Air [JW/VNL] also withdrew from the market in March this year (Vanilla Air to suspend Seoul.).

Flight Schedule:
Naha – Seoul/Incheon NEW daily with A320-200.
MM905 OKA 1305 – 1515 ICN 320 Daily
MM906 ICN 1555 – 1805 OKA 320 Daily

Peach first arrived in Naha with service from Kansai on October 18th, 2012, and added Ishigaki [ISG/ROIG] on September 13th, 2013, followed by Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP] seven days later. It was upgraded to a hub on July 19th, 2014 with the launch of Fukuoka [FUK/RJFF], though Ishigaki became the first route to be axed on Peach's network at the same time (Peach launches Naha hub; but Naha – Ishigaki axed.). Although Mr. Inoue cited heavy competition as the reason for the suspension, rumors point out to 39% owner ANA Holdings pressuring Peach to exit the short but high-demand route connecting the two major Okinawa islands to protect All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA]. Hong Kong [HKG/VHHH] was launched on February 21st (Peach commences Okinawa – Hong Kong.).

The growing LCC currently bases two A320s at Naha, with ambitions to turn it into a scissors hub to funnel passengers between the main islands of Japan and Southeast Asia. Peach has publicly said Thailand and Vietnam are their top priorities, followed by Malaysia and Singapore. Bangkok/Don Mueang [DMK/VTBD] is being evaluated for launch during the Winter 2015/2016 timetable (Peach mulls Okinawa – Bangkok.), possibly sometime after their 17th A320 is delivered in November. However, Peach does not offer a fly-through product as of yet, forcing passengers to buy two segments separately if they wished to connect, and this may need to change if Mr. Inoue is serious about a full-fledged transit hub.

Source: Aviation Wire, 2015 September 4th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, 2015 September 4th. (in Japanese)

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