Sunday, June 15, 2014

Skymark Airlines inaugurates Airbus A330 service.

On June 14th, Skymark Airlines (BC/SKY) inaugurated Airbus A330 operations with flight BC003, service from Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) to Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF). Flown by A330-343E JA330B, the flight departed Haneda at 0758 JST, 18 minutes behind schedule, and took off at 0817 with a load of 262 passengers, eight flight attendants, and two pilots. It touched down at Fukuoka at 0944 and came to a stop at the gate at 0954, 19 minutes behind their published arrival time.
Airbus A330-343E JA330B is seen being pushed back from the gate at Haneda for its inaugural revenue flight on Saturday, June 14th. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Japan's third largest carrier has configured their brand-new A330s in a 271-seat Green Seat all-premium layout (Skymark Airlines' first two Airbus A330s delivered.), boasting a generous 38-inch (96.5 centimeters) seat pitch at seven-abreast (2-3-2), similar to Japan Airlines' (JL/JAL) Class J domestic business class product. However, it still represents a 53% capacity increase compared to their Boeing 737-800s, which seat 177 in their all-economy cabin. So far, Skymark has not been charging a premium for A330-operated flights.

The skirt length of the controversial one-piece short-skirt uniforms (Miniskirt turbulence at Skymark Airlines?) has been extended by about 10 centimeters in response to critics. The 1960s-style uniform is being worn by flight attendants just on the widebody Airbus for the first six months on each route it is introduced on as part of a campaign to promote the new product.
A Skymark flight attendant wearing their fresh new mini-skirt uniform performing in-flight service. Skymark offers a buy-on-board program, however, their menu is simple and products are much more reasonably priced compared to LCCs. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Skymark's President and CEO Shinichi Nishikubo, who was also present on the inaugural flight, told reporters he was "filled with deep emotions," when asked how he felt reaching the historic day after it was forced to delay four times, pushing the inauguration back by almost three months (Skymark delays Airbus A330 launch again; now June 14th.). Having had to become the first A330 operator in Japan, they had underestimated the amount of work and time it takes to go through the various regulatory hurdles and the country's relatively slow process of certification. Making an in-flight announcement himself, Mr. Nishikubo said "Please sit back, recline, and experience the comfort," welcoming passengers.
The spacious seven-abreast (2-3-2) layout on Skymark's Airbus A330. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

The airline currently has two A330-300s, both of which are on lease from Intrepid Aviation, and plans a total of 10 by September 2015. JA330A entered service on the same day with flight BC009. Their third example is expected in August and three more will arrive by the end of 2014, while the remaining four are to be delivered by September 2015. With the acquisition of their third example, all Haneda – Fukuoka flights will be operated by A330s, and Skymark plans to expand A330 operations to Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) in October and to Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) in February or March next year.

Along with the all-premium Airbus A380s they will start receiving later this year (Skymark's Airbus A380 to be delayed up to six months.), the all-premium A330s are in line with Skymark's strategy to meet the demand for affordable premium travel (Skymark posts loss but optimistic with strategy tweaks.) and their survival plan to create a niche of their own and avoid being caught in between the full-service carriers and the growing LCCs.

Source: Aviation Wire, June 14th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, June 15th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, June 16th. (in Japanese)

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