Saturday, June 27, 2015

J-Air missed inspections for three Bombardier CRJs.

J-Air [XM/JLJ], the wholly-owned commuter arm of Japan Airlines [JL/JAL], flew three Bombardier CL-600-2B19 CRJ-200ER aircraft for up to six months without inspections being carried out on engine-related parts, JAL officials said on June 24th. In order to carry out the checks, the regional airline on June 24th canceled 23 flights affecting 807 passengers, though there were no disruptions the following day.

Bombardier CL-600-2B19 CRJ-200ER JA205J at New Chitose serving Sapporo. Deliveries of newer Embraer E-Jets will start later in 2015 to replace CRJs, though J-Air's entire fleet will eventually be standardized on the Mitsubishi MRJ (JAL orders 32 Mitsubishi MRJs and 27 Embraer E-Jets.). (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

The three aircraft in concern are CRJ-200ERs JA207J, JA208J, and JA209J, which were delivered in October 2005, December 2005, and March 2006, respectively. The airplanes' structural parts supporting the engines were required for inspection when they reached 22,145 cycles, and once every 11,773 cycles thereafter. However, they went unnoticed without one for up 2,178 flights, or six months. All necessary checks, which found no flaws, were carried out on the night of June 24th.

Technical personnel noticed the three aircraft had missed the check-up when they were updating their maintenance system. Their six other CRJ-200ERs in its fleet are unaffected. J-Air is investigating why it failed to conduct the inspection.

Source: Aviation Wire, June 24th. (in Japanese)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Peach expands Taipei; Haneda and more Kansai.

On June 25th, Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] officially revealed the launch of Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] – Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP] on August 8th (Peach plans Narita hub and Haneda – Taipei.). The service will initially be operated six days a week with 180-seat Airbus A320s, but is expected to be increased to daily from the Winter 2015/2016 schedule. On the same date, the growing LCC will also add a third Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] – Taipei/Taoyuan round-trip which will be flown six days a week.

Airbus A320-214 JA803P taxies at Narita. Peach's fleet will steadily grow to 20 by 2017 (Peach orders three Airbus A320s.). No A320neo are planned at least for now. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Peach's new link uses Haneda's under-utilized midnight slot-pairs allocated for international services. The aircraft for the Haneda route will arrive into Taipei as the third flight from Kansai late in the evening, and turn around for a red-eye flight to Haneda. After a brief 70-minute stay, it will return to Taipei as the outbound flight from Tokyo, in time for the first flight of the day from Taipei back to Kansai.

Fares will range from 7,680 JPY for a Happy Peach ticket, which only includes a 10-kilogram carry-on baggage allowance, and go up to 53,580 JPY for last-minute, flexible and inclusive tickets. Tickets will go on sale at a later date yet to be announced. A promotional 12,000 JPY round-trip fare will be offered for travel between August 19th and October 23rd.

Flight Schedule:
Kansai – Taipei/Taoyuan increase from 14 to 20 weekly. (Aug/8 - Oct/24)
MM023 KIX 0840 – 1030 TPE 320 Daily *Departs 10 min late on Mo.
MM027 KIX 1605 – 1755 TPE 320 Daily
MM029 KIX 2105 – 2255 TPE 320 Tu/We/Th/Fr/Sa/Su *No operation on Oct/16 & 23.
MM022 TPE 0915 – 1255 KIX 320 Mo/We/Th/Fr/Sa/Su *No operation on Oct/17 & 24.
MM024 TPE 1105 – 1445 KIX 320 Daily *Departs 10 min late on Mo.
MM028 TPE 1830 – 2210 KIX 320 Daily 

Haneda – Taipei/Taoyuan NEW six weekly with A320-200. (Aug/8 - Oct/24)
MM1029 HND 0555 – 0830 TPE 320 Mo/We/Th/Fr/Sa/Su *No operation on Oct/17 & 24.
MM1028 TPE 0030 – 0445 HND 320 Mo/We/Th/Fr/Sa/Su *No operation on Oct/17 & 24.

"We have become a pioneer in creating new markets. As with Kansai, we hope to tap into the still under-served Tokyo market and expand the pie," said CEO Shinichi Inoue. The Kansai-based carrier will be the first Japanese LCC to serve heavily-regulated Haneda, and the third LCC overall after AirAsia X [D7/XAX], Hong Kong Express Airways [UO/HKE] (d.b.a. HK Express), and Spring Airlines [9C/CQH], which will also start on August 5th with a four-times-weekly service connecting Shanghai/Pudong [PVG/ZSPD]. Tigerair Taiwan [IT/TTW] and Zest Airways [Z2/EZD] (d.b.a AirAsia Zest) have plans as well.

Besides the newly-announced Haneda route, Peach is adding Kansai – Miyazaki [KMI/RJFM] on August 28th (Peach loads Kansai – Miyazaki.), followed by Naha – Seoul/Incheon [ICN/RKSI] on September 4th (Peach announces Okinawa – Seoul.). From its base at Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] and Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH] (Peach launches Naha hub; but Naha – Ishigaki axed.), Japan's so far most successful LCC would operate nine international and 13 domestic routes covering 17 destinations by then. Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] (Peach starts Narita to Fukuoka and Sapporo.) and Sendai [SDJ/RJSS] (Peach plans Sendai hub by Summer 2017.) have already been announced as their third and fourth hubs in the future.

Source: Peach Aviation, June 25th. (in Japanese)
Source: Peach Aviation, June 25th. (in Japanese)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Skynet Asia to officially change name to Solaseed Air.

Skynet Asia Airways [6J/SNJ] (d.b.a. Solaseed Air) will officially change its corporate name to Solaseed Air effective December 1st. It was approved at a shareholders' meeting held on June 23rd. The niche carrier aims to raise brand-awareness by standardizing its brand and official name. It started using the Solaseed Air brand on July 11th, 2011, however, their official identity remained unchanged.

Boeing 737-86N(WL) JA805X arrives at Haneda in the sunset. The name change would likely be unnoticed by most ordinary travelers, as Skynet Asia has been using Solaseed Air as its brand since July 2011. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Founded back on July 3rd, 1997 as Pan Asia Airways, it changed its name to Skynet Asia Airways in September 1999, before launching operations on August 1st, 2002 with a base at Miyazaki [KMI/RJFM]. Originally the third child of Japan's deregulation challenging the ANA/JAL/JAS triopoly, its financial situation quickly deteriorated before an intervention orchestrated by the government in June 2004 led to a rehabilitation process sponsored by All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA].

ANA Holdings currently owns 8.56% of Solaseed, though it virtually controls over 36% when combined with the 27.75% share controlled by Development Bank of Japan, with which ANA enjoys rapport. ANA thus has indirect control over the 25 slot-pairs Solaseed holds at Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT]. Japan's largest carrier has also used them as a lower-cost feeder vehicle to transfer some less-profitable routes, with the most recent example being the two new Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH] links (Solaseed Air expands Okinawa with Ishigaki and Nagoya.).

Code-sharing with ANA throughout its network, Solaseed's fleet has steadily grown from just two Boeing 737-400s (CoachFlyer 6J034: NGS - HND on Solaseed Air's Boeing 737.), the last of which was retired in September 2014 (Solaseed Air bids farewell to the Boeing 737-400.), to a dozen 737-800s.

Source: Skynet Asia Airways, June 23rd. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Skymark/ANA and Intrepid both given go-ahead by court.

On June 15th, the Tokyo District Court, where Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] filed for bankruptcy protection (Skymark to file for bankruptcy.), approved both rehabilitation proposals for the embattled carrier for discussion at a creditors' meeting; one submitted by Skymark themselves that involves sponsorship by ANA Holdings, parent of All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] (Skymark gives in to ANA; Japan reverts to duopoly.), and the other by Intrepid Aviation, aircraft lessor and Skymark's biggest creditor (Skymark and Intrepid submit rivaling revival plans.). In Japan, it is very unusual for multiple plans to be approved for consideration. The meeting will be held on August 5th.

Boeing 737-82Y(WL) JA73NE comes in to land at New Chitose near Sapporo. Japan's third largest carrier controls 36 coveted slots-pairs at preferred Haneda. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Under the Skymark/ANA scheme, a total of 18 billion JPY would be injected into the bankrupt airline by Integral Corporation, UDS Airlines Investment, and ANA Holdings, which would in turn control 50.1%, 33.4%, and 16.5%, respectively. Six executives would sit on the board; Integral would select three, ANA two, and UDS one, while Integral would appoint the Chairman and UDS the President. The proposal would likely include reducing Skymark's network and fleet, implementing code-sharing, joint ticket sales, joint fuel purchases, and joint crew training with ANA, and gradually aligning its network to complement that of ANA's. This would virtually transform Skymark into another zombie feeder carrier, replicating how ANA controls AIRDO [HD/ADO] (d.b.a. Air Do), Skynet Asia Airways [6J/SNJ] (d.b.a. Solaseed Air), and Star Flyer [7G/SFJ]. Debt repayment rate to those who claim over 1 million JPY is set at 5%.

Boeing 767-381 JA8569 arrives at Haneda. Adding Skymark to ANA's portfolio of zombie carriers 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 effectively brings back duopoly to Japan's most important airport. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Meanwhile, Intrepid's deal includes the same 18 billion JPY, however, the plan has been amended to have Integral as the sole provider of the injection. This effectively paves the way for non-investment sponsorship by foreign airlines, which could be more acceptable to the regulators who are still uncomfortable about allowing foreign investment in Japanese carriers at slot-restricted Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT]. Skymark's biggest creditor is seeking 900 million USD (104 billion JPY) for scrapping seven Airbus A330 contracts (Skymark terminates all Airbus A330 leases.), and though it favored ANA sponsorship when Japan's largest airline said it could induct the A330s, it decided to submit its own proposal when it learned ANA would not take them. Debt repayment rate for those claiming over 1 million JPY has been increased from 3% to 5% or higher, matching that of the Skymark/ANA plan.

Intrepid is reportedly holding talks with a number of candidate sponsors, who would be willing to take up the grounded A330s. Rumors point to Delta Air Lines [DL/DAL] and Hainan Airlines [HU/CHH], and at least the former's President Ed Bastian confirmed they had been approached though declining to give any details. The Skyteam member has long wanted a partner in Japan, and fought hard and failed to lure then-bankrupt Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] from American Airlines [AA/AAL] and Oneworld back in 2010. However, times have changed and so may have Delta's priorities; Japan is a shrinking market and U.S. airlines are focusing more on China, and Delta is reportedly negotiating a deeper cooperation, if not a joint-venture (JV), with Skyteam partner Korean Air [KE/KAL]. Delta also recently decided to forfeit its Seattle-Tacoma [SEA/KSEA] slot-pair at Haneda, leaving only Los Angeles [LAX/KLAX].

Boeing 777-232/ER N862DA at Narita. Delta's Tokyo presence it inherited from the Northwest merger continues to shrink; other than U.S. cities, only five intra-Asian/Pacific routes are expected to remain by 2016. Pursuing China through a potential deeper cooperation with Korean Air seems to be their priority. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

In addition, though Delta may take the Rolls-Royce-powered A330s (their current A330s are Pratt & Whitney and General Electric), they have no interest in A380s (Skymark's Airbus A380 order in jeopardy.). So how much support from Airbus, which also opposed the Skymark/ANA deal after ANA turned down the canceled A380s (Airbus and Intrepid to reject ANA/Skymark tie-up.), Intrepid's plan would be able to gain remains questionable. At the August 5th creditors' meeting, 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 and Airbus's claims together accounting for over 60% of the liabilities, the European planemaker's decision is crucial. "We will study both plans. We hope one of them, if not two, will be viable for Skymark," said Fabrice Brégier, CEO of Airbus.

The supervisory board selected by the court said both proposals were realistic, commenting "It can't be said that Skymark wouldn't be able to carry out its rehabilitation without an airline sponsor," adding "Skymark had originally sought for a revitalization process without a sponsoring airline. Also, it can't be said that another sponsor (other than ANA) could not be found in the future." Skymark and ANA will hold an emergency meeting in early July to persuade creditors to endorse their proposal on August 5th, while Intrepid will continue to talk with airlines in search of a sponsor (and taker of the A330s). For most of the flying public, Intrepid's proposal would be welcome as it confirms Skymark's future as the third force independent from ANA or JAL, ensuring competition remains at Haneda. Stay tuned.

Source: Nikkei Shimbun, June 17th. (in Japanese)
Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 17th. (in Japanese)
Source: Reuters Japan, June 19th. (in Japanese)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Boeing donates first 787 to Nagoya Chubu Centrair.

Boeing has donated the prototype 787 Dreamliner, registered N787BA (ZA001), to Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG]. The aircraft arrived at the central Japan airport on June 22nd at 1305 JST, having departed Boeing Field at King County [BFI/KBFI] on June 21st at 1130 PDT. It will remain parked at Spot 28 for now, until the airport finds a permanent resting spot to place the aircraft on static display.

Boeing 787-8 N787BA arrives at Chubu Centrair, greeted by staff of the airport, ANA, JAL, and the planemaker's Japanese unit. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

N787BA's final flight BOE001 was piloted by Michael Carriker, Randy Neville, both of whom were in charge of the Dreamliner's maiden flight back on December 15th, 2009, and Craig Bomben, who was at the controls of the chase plane for that historic flight. Of the six test 787 airframes the U.S. planemaker built, the second, registered N787EX (ZA002), was donated to the Pima Air and Space Museum in March this year, and the third, registered N787BX (ZA003) was donated to the Museum of Flight in November 2014.

The prototype Dreamliner at Chubu Centrair. Banners read "I'm back," and "Welcome home." (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Boeing's Japanese heavy industry suppliers based in the Nagoya region together manufacture roughly 35% of the 787's parts. "Nagoya plays an important role for the 787. We are honored to have the ZA001 loved by this region," said George Maffeo, President of Boeing Japan. Hundreds of enthusiasts flocked to Chubu Centrair to see the arrival as well as attend a talk show by the three pilots that followed.

As of May, the Seattle-based planemaker had logged orders for 1,105 Dreamliners (456 787-8s, 509 787-9s, and 140 787-10s), of which 282 examples (255 787-8s and 27 787-9s) have been delivered. Launch customer All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] received its first on September 25th, 2011, while Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] was only the second carrier to take delivery of the type of March 25th, 2012. ANA has ordered 83 (36 787-8s, 44 787-9s, and three 787-10s) with 37 (33 787-8s and four 787-9s) delivered, while JAL has ordered 45 (25 787-8s and 20 787-9s) with 22 (21 787-8s and one 787-9) delivered.

Source: Aviation Wire, June 22nd. (in Japanese)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Japan Air Commuter orders up to 23 ATR42-600s.

On June 15th, Japan Air Commuter [3X/JAC] signed a contract to purchase up to 23 ATR42-600s, including eight firm orders, one option, and 14 purchase rights, at the Paris Air Show. Deliveries of the new generation aircraft will begin in 2017 to mainly replace JAC's 10 aging 36-seat Saab SF340Bs. It represents the 1500th ATR aircraft sold since the beginning of the program.

A rendering of the ATR42-600 in Japan Air Commuter's livery. (Image: ATR)

The ATR42-600 turboprop is equipped with a glass cockpit incorporating the newest navigation technologies introduced on the Airbus A380. Seating 48, the aircraft are also equipped with the new Armonia cabin, featuring the latest standards of comfort, including large overhead bins, LED lightening, and more legroom for passengers. JAC President Arata Yasujima said "We evaluated it against a smaller version of the Q400 Bombardier is developing," adding "In the end we valued the ATR42's comfort, economics, and reliability."

Originally a joint-venture (JV) between Japan Air System [JD/JAS] and 12 governments in the Amami Archipelago, controlling 60% and 40%, respectively, the regional airline was founded in 1983 to provide air services to remote islands from Kagoshima [KOJ/RJFK]. The JAS holding has since been inherited by Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] and it currently operates  141 daily flights covering 27 routes. In addition to the SF340Bs, it also flies 11 Bombardier DHC-8-400Qs.

JAC becomes the second carrier in Japan to choose the ATR42 after Amakusa Airlines [AHX], which will take delivery of a single aircraft in January 2016 to replace their sole Bombardier DHC-8-103, JA81MX (Amakusa Airlines chooses ATR42-600.). The Amakusa-based commuter airline started code-sharing with JAL in April (Amakusa Airlines announces code-share with JAL.), and Mr. Yasujima hinted a possible partnership including sharing spare parts sources.

Source: ATR, June 15th. (in English)
Source: Aviation Wire, June 15th. (in Japanese)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Peach orders three Airbus A320s.

On June 16th, Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] signed a firm contract to purchase three Airbus A320-200s. A signing ceremony was held at the Paris Air Show, attended by President Shinichi Inoue, Fabrice Brégier, CEO of the European planemaker, along with John Leahy, its COO. Although this order becomes their first direct order with Airbus, Peach has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Fuyo General Lease for a sale-leaseback arrangement upon delivery in 2016-2017 for the newly-ordered aircraft.

Airbus A320-214 JA801P makes its maiden flight back on October 14th, 2011. Peach has since (conservatively) built its fleet to 14, becoming the so far most successful LCC in Japan. (Photo: Airbus)

The growing LCC currently operates 14 A320s on lease, with another three to be delivered on lease in FY2015. The latest contract would bring its fleet to 20 by 2017. All seat 180 passengers in a single-class layout. Regarding the re-engined A320neos, Mr. Inoue said "We are evaluating the aircraft under many conditions. It's not that we have declined the A320neo." However, Mr. Inoue reiterated that Peach doesn't intend to equip any of its A320s in service or on order with sharklets, commenting "For short-haul routes, it's not worth the investment. The aircraft simply gets heavier."

Asked whether Peach is considering other A320 family aircraft, Mr. Inoue responded "For now we'll stick with the A320, but if situations change, we would like to react with flexibility." The larger A321 has been studied. Meanwhile, Mr. Inoue showed interest in the Airbus Space-Flex module, which would add six more seats to the A320 by reallocating galleys and lavatories, bringing up capacity to 186.

From its base at Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] and Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH], Japan's so far most successful LCC currently operates 12 international and seven domestic routes covering 15 destinations. Kansai – Miyazaki [KMI/RJFM] will be added on August 28th (Peach loads Kansai – Miyazaki.) followed by Naha – Seoul/Incheon [ICN/RKSI] on September 4th (Peach announces Okinawa – Seoul.). Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] (Peach starts Narita to Fukuoka and Sapporo.) and Sendai [SDJ/RJSS] (Peach plans Sendai hub by Summer 2017.) have already been announced as their third and fourth hubs in the future. Mr. Inoue declined to comment on the Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] – Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP] launch (Peach plans Narita hub and Haneda – Taipei.).

Source: Airbus, June 16th. (in English)
Source: Aviation Wire, June 16th. (in Japanese)
Source: Fuyo General Lease, June 17th. (in Japanese)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

JAL takes delivery of first Boeing 787-9.

On June 11th, Japan Airlines' [JL/JAL] first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner arrived at Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] on delivery. Registered JA861J, the aircraft seats 195 in a three-class layout of JAL's award-winning Sky Suite product; 44 Sky Suite (business), 35 Sky Premium (premium economy), and 116 Sky Wider II (economy) seats. It is expected to enter service on the Narita – Jakarta/Soukarno-Hatta [CGK/WIII] route on July 1st.

Boeing 787-9 JA861J arrives at Narita. The two General Electric GEnx-1B74/75 engines create 6% more thrust than the smaller Dash 8s. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Marked as flight JL8101, the delivery flight across the Pacific departed Paine Field [PAE/KPAE] on June 10th at 1630 PDT, and touched down at Narita on June 11th at 1818 JST. Although JAL's 787-9s share the same seats as the Sky Suite 787-8 (JAL's Sky Suite 787 makes debut.), which carries 161 (38 Sky Suite, 35 Sky Premium, and 88 Sky Wider II), the Dash 9 is 6.1 meters longer and carries 34 more passengers.

Lie-flat staggered business class seats on the Boeing 787-9. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

As with the Sky Suite 787-8, the newly-delivered stretched Dreamliners are equipped with MAGIC-VI in-flight entertainment (IFE) with touch-controlled monitors, in-flight wireless internet connection dubbed JAL Sky Wi-Fi, and toilets in all classes boasting washlets. Cabin LED lighting patterns will be set according to the season, for example with red and green to be featured for December.

Premium economy is in a seven-abreast layout. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Business class is in a six-abreast (2-2-2) staggered layout with direct aisle access from every seat. Manufactured by B/E Aerospace, the lie-flat seats measure 188 centimeters in length when extended, while its width is 65 centimeters. Premium economy seats are 49 centimeters wide (19.4 inches) with a seat pitch of 107-centimeters (42 inches) and are configured in at seven abreast (2-3-2). Seats are made by Zodiac Aerospace France. Economy class is in a generous eight-abreast (2-4-2) layout, offering five more centimeters in width than nine abreast (3-3-3), which has been the worldwide trend. Zodiac Aerospace USA is responsible for the manufacturing.

JAL continues to opt for eight abreast in economy, continuing to buck the nine-abreast trend. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

JAL has ordered 25 787-8s and 20 787-9s, of which 21 and one have been delivered, respectively. Unlike at rival All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] where some 787s are also placed on short domestic missions in domestic layouts, all of JAL's 787s fly international routes (except for occasional domestic subsitutions), either for expansion or for replacing older 767-300ERs, which in turn are used to replace the oldest domestic 777s and 767s. JAL has confirmed it has no intention to introduce domestic-configured 787s.

Source: Aviation Wire, June 11th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, June 13th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, June 20th. (in Japanese)

*Edited/updated on June 20th, 2015.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

ANA launches Narita – Houston.

On June 12th, All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] launched daily Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] – Houston/George Bush [IAH/KIAH] service (ANA announces Houston and Southeast Asia expansion.) using 250-seat (eight first, 52 business, 24 premium economy, and 166 economy) Boeing 777-300ERs. Operated as part of the joint-venture (JV) with Star Alliance partner United Airlines [UA/UAL], this is the first direct link from Japan to the Texas airport on a Japanese carrier.

Boeing 777-381/ER JA733A departs rainy Narita on ANA's inaugural to Houston. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Inaugural flight NH174 departed Narita at 1115 JST with a load of 244 passengers, 14 flight attendants, and three cockpit crew. Flown by 777-381/ER JA733A, it lifted off from Runway 34L at 1146.

Flight Schedule:
Narita – Houston/George Bush NEW 1 daily with B777-300ER.
NH174 NRT 1115 – 0930 IAH 77W Daily
NH175 IAH 1120 – 1520(+1) NRT 77W Daily

Houston is the fourth most populous city in the U.S. housing several energy corporations. The new service will augment United's existing daily flight, and is aimed at enhancing connection to and from Latin America, especially Mexico, where the presence of Japanese companies is rapidly increasing. At Narita, passengers can connect from Bangkok/Suvarnabhumi [BKK/VTBS], Ho Chi Minh/Tan Son Nhat [SGN/VVTS], Mumbai/Chhatrapati Shivaji [BOM/VABB], Singapore/Changi [SIN/WSSS], and Yangon [RGN/VYYY] onto the new service, while at Houston, ANA has placed its code on 19 U.S. domestic and seven Mexico routes operated by United.

Present at the departure of their first flight, Shinya Katanozaka, President of ANA Holdings, parent of ANA, said "We expect strong demand from energy-related businesses, but we would like to develop the leisure travel market as well. Already 25% of today's flight are connecting passengers, and that would probably go up to 50%," adding "Our target load factor is 75%. The figures so far look better than our other recently-started routes. We put the 777-300ER because it is equipped with first class, and there's strong demand for corporate travel."

Source: Aviation Wire, June 12th. (in Japanese)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Skymark and Intrepid submit rivaling revival plans.

On May 29th, Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] filed a corporation rehabilitation plan with the Tokyo District Court that includes a sponsorship agreement with ANA Holdings, parent of All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA]. The new owners would together inject 18 billion JPY into the bankrupt carrier (Skymark to file for bankruptcy.), and a debt-equity swap would leave Integral Corporation holding 50.1%, UDS Airlines Investment 33.4%, and ANA Holdings 16.5%. UDS is a new investment firm jointly owned by Development Bank of Japan and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking. Six executives will sit on the board, and Integral will select three, ANA two, and UDS one; Integral will appoint the Chairman while UDS will choose the President.

Boeing 737-86N(WL) JA73NK rotates from Haneda. If the ANA partnership is approved, Skymark will likely use some of its 36 slots to take over or launch less profitable routes for ANA, as is the case with Air Do, Solaseed Air, and Star Flyer. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

The proposal includes allocating all 18 billion JPY to repay its debt, which Skymark targets to reduce to just 5% for creditors who claim over 1 million JPY. Creditors have so far filed claims totaling 308.9 billion JPY (Skymark's total debts skyrocket to 300 billion JPY.), including aircraft lessor Intrepid Aviation seeking 900 million USD (104 billion JPY) for scrapping seven Airbus A330 contracts (Skymark terminates all Airbus A330 leases.) and Airbus demanding 700 million USD (85 billion JPY) for the canceled A380 order (Skymark's Airbus A380 order in jeopardy.). The ANA/Skymark plan is expected to include code-sharing, joint ticket sales, joint fuel purchases, and joint crew training with ANA. A new corporate identity is also likely (Skymark hints at new brand: SKY bee?).

Meanwhile, biggest creditor Intrepid, which has decided to oppose ANA involvement in the rehabilitation proceedings (Airbus and Intrepid to reject ANA/Skymark tie-up.), also submitted a rivaling plan on May 29th. It says Integral would be the primary sponsor, but it would select an alternative airline partner other than ANA. "We are currently in the process of identifying candidates for a new airline sponsor," said the U.S.-based leasing firm, revealing Delta Air Lines [DL/DAL] as one of them (Skymark's fate: AirAsia, ANA, Delta, or...?). The debt repayment rate for those claiming over 1 million JPY is set at 3%, which is lower than the ANA/Skymark proposal. The European planemaker had also handed in a statement to the court on May 28th saying "If Skymark submits the plan (that involves ANA's sponsorship), there is a significant and realistic risk that it would not be able to gain the support of major creditors, including Airbus."

Airbus A320-211 N341NW at Salt Lake City. Intrepid Aviation is reportedly asking Delta Air Lines to sponsor Skymark. Airbus may also support the scheme, as the SkyTeam carrier is a major customer with 25 A350-900s, 25 A330-900neo aircraft, nine more A330-300s, and 45 A321s on order with potential for more. Delta has long wanted a partner in Japan, but has so far refrained from assisting Skymark. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Intrepid had initially welcomed ANA's involvement as Japan's largest carrier reportedly talked positively about inducting Skymark's A330s, however, after they learned Japan's largest carrier would not take them up, it changed its mind. "It is true that we discussed the possible use of Skymark's A330 with Intrepid. And some media are reporting as if we are breaking a promise, but we didn't have any binding agreement. We ourselves are confused by what Intrepid is saying," said Toyoyuki Nagamine, Senior Executive Officer of ANA. Airbus is also unsatisfied with ANA not taking up the A380s. "We're not going to acquire a new aircraft just because we became Skymark's sponsor. We believe we enjoy a long friendly relationship with Airbus, and that would continue in the future. We will assist Skymark in negotiations with them," responded Mr. Nagamine.

Skymark criticized Intrepid's plan, saying feasibility of the rival proposal "is not clear at all" and offers a lower repayment rate for creditors' claims. The bankrupt carrier expressed confidence that if the court approves both plans, a majority of creditors would give consent for the ANA/Skymark rehabilitation plan at their meeting currently planned for July. 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; thus rejection of the proposal by the two biggest creditors effectively blocks the ANA/Skymark tie-up. However, Skymark believes its actual debt they owe to Intrepid and Airbus are much lower, and hence do not need the support of the two (at least for now) biggest creditors.

Airbus A320-211 JA8947 taxies past a JAL Boeing 737. Adding Skymark to ANA's portfolio of puppet carriers Air Do, Solaseed Air, and Star Flyer would have them control a dominant 60% of domestic slots at Haneda. The JAL Group controls the remaining 40%, effectively bringing back duopoly at Japan's most important airport. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

ANA Holdings President Shinya Katanozaka said "We are the best sponsor." Although ANA and Intrepid have agreed to re-list Skymark within five years, the chief said "Our firm hold of Skymark shares will translate into their revitalization," adding "If there is a merit to both of us, we want to continue the partnership beyond their rehabilitation period." With so much priority on keeping genuine competition out of Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT], ANA likely has no intention of letting go of its influence on the former rival start-up, which ultimately forced Japan's largest carrier to launch full-fledged LCCs Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] and the first AirAsia Japan (Mk I) [JW/WAJ] (CoachFlyer JW8541: NRT - FUK on AirAsia Japan's Airbus A320.), which now operates as Vanilla Air [JW/VNL].

Skymark plans to commence code-sharing with ANA as soon as it receives approval from regulator Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB), though routes have not been disclosed. Nobuo Sayama, President of Integral said, "We will suspend Sendai (Skymark to pull out of Sendai in October.) and Yonago (Skymark decides to close Yonago, keep Ibaraki.), but will fly elsewhere, where we can find more customers," adding "We will discuss new destinations with ANA as early as autumn." As with ANA's other minority-owned but de facto controlled carriers AIRDO [HD/ADO] (d.b.a. Air Do), Skynet Asia Airways [6J/SNJ] (d.b.a. Solaseed Air), and Star Flyer [7G/SFJ], some of Skymark's Haneda slots are likely to be used to take over ANA's less profitable routes or launch new links on behalf of ANA, gradually transforming Skymark into a feeder carrier for Japan's biggest carrier.

ANA's Mr. Nagamine says Skymark would still be independent, as "Pricing would be decided by Skymark." Well, not many would agree with that.

Source: Aviation Wire, May 29th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, May 29th. (in Japanese)
Source: Reuters Japan, June 1st. (in Japanese)
Source: Nikkei Shimbun, June 2nd. (in Japanese)
Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 3rd. (in Japanese)
Source: Business Journal, June 3rd. (in Japanese)
Source: Nikkei Shimbun, June 5th. (in Japanese) 

*Edited/updated on June 5th, 2015.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

ANA to cancel Narita – Paris; up-gauges Haneda link.

All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] will suspend its Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] – Paris/Charles de Gaulle [CDG/LFPG] route effective October 25th, the beginning of the Winter 2015/2016 timetable. The service is currently operated on a daily basis using 169-seat (46 business, 21 premium economy, and 102 economy) Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners. Instead, Japan's largest carrier will up-gauge its daily Tokyo/Haneda – Paris/Charles de Gaulle from a 787-8 to the larger 215-seat (48 business, 21 premium economy, and 146 economy) 787-9s, a 27% capacity increase, on the same day (ANA's international Boeing 787-9 debuts.). 

Boeing 787-8 JA811A taxies at Haneda for another short flight. This is a domestic-configured example seating 335; 12 in Premium Class and 323 in economy. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

As ANA does not have any code-shares on the Narita – Paris/Charles de Gaulle route, canceling the route would go against the so-called Narita Rule. Aimed at protecting Narita from Haneda's expanding international role, the gentleman's agreement with the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) and local governments says any international airline that operates to and from Haneda should also have a link to that country from Narita.

However, overall ANA is in fact growing at Narita, and that may have had the authorities accept the suspension of their French connection. Houston/George Bush [IAH/KIAH] is being prepared for launch on June 12th (ANA announces Houston and Southeast Asia expansion.) while second daily flights to Singapore/Changi [SIN/WSSS] and Bangkok/Suvarnabhumi [BKK/VTBS] will be added (or resumed) from June 11th and August 1st, respectively. Kuala Lumpur/Sepang [KUL/WMKK] will be started on September 1st (ANA reveals Kuala Lumpur and expansion at Narita.) and Honolulu [HNL/PHNL] goes double-daily from July 17th. The addition of Brussels/Zaventem [BRU/EBBR] by the end of this year was only announced a few days ago (ANA announces Narita – Brussels.).

Haneda – Paris/Charles de Gaulle sees competition from Air France [AF/AFR] and Japan Airlines [JL/JAL], and both operate from Narita as well. ANA continues to pursue a dual-hub strategy for Tokyo; it is consolidating its core Asia and Europe markets catering to business travelers at Haneda, while it targets the Asia – North America market and more leisure travelers at Narita.

Source: Aviation Wire, June 2nd. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Jetstar Japan starts Narita – Hong Kong.

On June 1st, Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP] inaugurated Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] – Hong Kong [HKG/VHHH] (Jetstar Japan announces Narita – Hong Kong.), making it their second international route after Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] – Hong Kong (Jetstar Japan goes international with Kansai – Hong Kong.), which was only launched on February 28th. Operated by 180-seat Airbus A320s, the three-times-weekly service will gradually be increased to daily by September 1st.

Airbus A320-232(SL) JA08JJ is being pushed back for the inaugural flight. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Flown by Airbus A320-232(SL) JA08JJ, maiden flight GK021 departed Narita at 0900 JST carrying 170 passengers, five flight attendants, and two pilots. One-way Starter fares, which include a seven-kilogram carry-on baggage allowance, will start from 7,500 JPY, excluding taxes and a fuel surcharge.

Flight Schedule:
Narita – Hong Kong NEW 3 weekly with A320-200. (June/1 - Jul/17)
GK021 NRT 0900 – 1240 HKG 32A/320 Mo/Tu/Th
GK022 HKG 1340 – 1900 NRT 32A/320 Mo/Tu/Th 

Narita – Hong Kong 6 weekly with A320-200. (July/18 - Aug/7, Aug/17 - 31)
GK021 NRT 0900 – 1240 HKG 32A/320 Mo/Tu/Th/Fr
GK021 NRT 0935 – 1315 HKG 32A/320 We/Su
GK022 HKG 1340 – 1900 NRT 32A/320 Mo/Tu/Th/Fr
GK022 HKG 1415 – 1935 NRT 32A/320 We/Su

Narita – Hong Kong 4 weekly with A320-200. (Aug/8 - 16)
GK021 NRT 0900 – 1240 HKG 32A/320 Mo/Th/Fr
GK021 NRT 0935 – 1315 HKG 32A/320 Su
GK022 HKG 1340 – 1900 NRT 32A/320 Mo/Th/Fr
GK22 HKG 1415 – 1935 NRT 32A/320 Su

Narita – Hong Kong 1 daily with A320-200. (Sep/1 - Oct/24)
GK021 NRT 0900 – 1240 HKG 32A/320 Mo/Tu/Fr
GK021 NRT 0935 – 1315 HKG 32A/320 We/Th/Sa/Su
GK022 HKG 1340 – 1900 NRT 32A/320 Mo/Tu/Fr
GK022 HKG 1415 – 1935 NRT 32A/320 We/Th/Sa/Su

Hong Kong becomes Jetstar Japan's first international destination from Narita, and the LCC group's fourth after Cairns [CNS/YBCS], Gold Coast [OOL/YBCG], and Melbourne/Tullamarine [MEL/YMML], all three of which are served by Australian sister Jetstar Airways [JQ/JST]. The growing Narita-based LCC carried their 9 millionth passenger on May 26th, the fastest of any Japanese LCC, and currently operates 21 routes covering 12 cities, including the former British colony.

In the coming months, Jetstar Japan intends to expand its international presence to destinations within a four-hour radius from Kansai and Narita, with South Korea and Taiwan also on its radar. Its fleet would be capped at 20 aircraft for now, as it concentrates on bringing up utilization. Asked about a third hub after Kansai (Jetstar Japan launches Kansai hub.), Chairman Masaru Kataoka said "We do need a few more hubs to increase utilization," though he refrained from disclosing any candidate cities. 

Source: Jetstar Japan, June 1st. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, June 1st. (in Japanese)

Monday, June 1, 2015

ANA announces Narita – Brussels.

On June 1st, All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] announced that they will launch Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] – Brussels/Zaventem [BRU/EBBR] during the Winter 2015/2016 timetable, which starts on October 25th. Details of the schedule and equipment have not been released, however, it will likely be served by 169-seat three-class Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners. Reinstating the link would end a 14-year hiatus since defunct Belgian flag carrier Sabena [SN/SAB] closed its doors.

Boeing 777-381/ER JA783A arrives at Narita after another long flight. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Along with Düsseldorf [DUS/EDDL], Frankfurt/Main [FRA/EDDF], Munich [MUC/EDDM], London/Heathrow [LHR/EGLL], and Paris/Charles de Gaulle [CDG/LFPG], ANA's sixth non-stop destination from Japan will also be operated as part of the joint-venture (JV) with Star Alliance partners Austrian Airlines [OS/AUA], Lufthansa [LH/DLH], and Swiss International Air Lines [LX/SWR]. At Brussels, Japan's largest carrier plans on code-sharing with Brussels Airlines [SN/BEL], another Lufthansa Group airline.

Brussels Airlines' predecessor Sabena used to operate four-times-weekly services between the cities until October 28th, 2001, just over a week before shutting down. According to ANA, approximately 90,000 passengers travel from Japan to Brussels each year, with most of them transferring through or using trains from Amsterdam/Schiphol [AMS/EHAM] and Paris/Charles de Gaulle. 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, June 1st. (in Japanese)