Thursday, April 10, 2014

AirAsia plans return to Japan in 2015.

Speaking at the New Economy Summit 2014 in Tokyo on April 10th, AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes revealed that a new joint-venture (JV) in Japan would be set up and be operational in 2015. "Everyone wants to come to Japan. We're going to make affordable and Japanese love to travel so I'm very bullish," Mr. Fernandes said.
AirAsia CEO Mr. Tony Fernandes speaking at the New Economy Summit 2014. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Mr. Fernandes told the media that he had found "fantastic partners" who are "more like-minded," and "bright in technology, can talk to the government on equal terms, and revolutionize the Japanese market," though he refrained from disclosing any names. Asked by media whether Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Rakuten, is involved, Mr. Fernandes replied "he's a friend, and it might be better for us to remain only friends." Originally an IT venture, Rakuten is now Japan's largest e-commerce firm and a multinational internet business, and has been rumored to be AirAsia's partner.

As to where the new JV would be based, AirAsia has been searching for an airport that meets the following criteria; (1) open 24 hours and not slot-restricted, (2) minimum travel disruptions due to weather, (3) low-cost, and (4) not a hub for other LCCs. This essentially leaves Nagoya's Chubu Centrair (NGO/RJGG) as the top candidate, however, with 2020 Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics on the horizon, they are also eager to open a base in the Greater Tokyo area, and AirAsia officials visited Ibaraki (IBR/RJAH), a one-and-a-half-hour bus ride from Tokyo Station, also on April 10th. In other regions, Kobe (UKB/RJBE) and Sendai (SDJ/RJSS) are also being considered for focus cities.

Mr. Fernandes added "Haneda and Narita are too slot-restricted and too costly," and went on to say "Japan wants to increase visitors from overseas (to 20 million by 2020), but they're not building a LCC airport. Instead of trying to do something with Narita, why not build a new LCC-dedicated airport?"
Former AirAsia Japan (Mk I) CEO Mr. Yoshinori Odagiri will also head the new AirAsia Japan (Mk II). (Photo: Aviation Wire)

On February 13th, Mr. Fernandes mentioned on Twitter that they had named former AirAsia Japan (Mk I) (JW/WAJ) head Yoshinori Odagiri its CEO for the new AirAsia Japan (Mk II), along with naming Osamu Hata, who previously worked with Dell's Japan unit, its CFO (New AirAsia Japan names CEO; official launch in April.).

Their first AirAsia Japan (Mk I), a JV with All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA), was terminated last year only 10 months after starting operations in August 2012, due to complicated reasons including differences in how the airline would be run. It ceased flights in October 2013 (CoachFlyer JW8541: NRT - FUK on AirAsia Japan's Airbus A320.) and relaunched as Vanilla Air (JW/VNL) two months later (Vanilla Air launches operations.) under 100% ANA control. "For ice cream, you need chocolate and raspberry, not only vanilla," Mr. Fernandes referred to the former JV in a sarcastic manner. Talking about its first Japanese incarnation, "It was a nightmare, and probably for ANA too," he recalls, adding "We've always worked as one captain of the ship. When you have two airlines, there are two views on how to do things."

The group's long-haul arm AirAsia X (D7/XAX) launched flights to Chubu Centrair on March 17th, making it their third Japanese destination after Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) and Osaka/Kansai (KIX/RJBB). Although delays with its India venture in obtaining an air operator's permit (AOP) seem to be having some effect, nevertheless, AirAsia is expected to make a formal announcement for the reincarnation of a Japanese unit later this month or May. "We shall return like Caesar," Mr. Fernandes is bullish, adding "this could be – and I still believe it, it's a strong statement – probably the most profitable company within AirAsia".

Source: Asahi Shimbun, April 10th. (in Japanese)
Source: Traicy, April 10th. (in Japanese)
Source: Mainichi Shimbun, April 10th. (in Japanese) 
Source: Aviation Wire, April 10th. (in Japanese)

*Post edited/updated on April 11th.

No comments:

Post a Comment