Friday, October 31, 2014

Solaseed Air eyes international charters in FY2015.

Skynet Asia Airways (6J/SNJ) (d.b.a. Solaseed Air) is planning international charters from Kyushu to neighboring Asian nations in FY2015, revealed Hiroshi Takahashi, its President and CEO. The Miyazaki-based carrier will take delivery of its 12th Boeing 737-800 in March 2015, and plans to deploy the aircraft on charters to China, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Boeing 737-81D(WL) JA801X Genki Factory Kinko-machi GO lands at Haneda. Under the Sorakoi Project, Solaseed Air promotes Kyushu's local communities. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

"We want to be flexible in deciding where we'll be flying to," said Mr. Takahashi, adding "We want to try out various possibilities, and eventually, we hope we can upgrade it to a scheduled service." Solaseed Air's fleet is now comprised of only brand-new 174-seat 737-800s, after the last of their 'Classic' 150-seat 737-400s was retired at the end of September (Solaseed Air bids farewell to the Boeing 737-400.).

From Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT), the Kyushu airline currently flies five daily round-trips each to Kagoshima (KOJ/RJFK) and Kumamoto (KMJ/RJFT), seven to Miyazaki (KMI/RJFM), and four each to Nagasaki (NGS/RJFU) and Oita (OIT/RJFO). From Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH), they operate two daily to Kagoshima, three to Kobe (UKB/RJBE), and one to Miyazaki. The timetable is operated with 10 737-800s, thus one aircraft is always kept as a back-up. All 31 daily flights code-share with All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA), parent of ANA Holdings, which controls 8.6% of Solaseed Air.

Reference: Aviation Wire, October 31st. (in Japanese)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Skymark braces for 13.7 billion JPY loss in FY2014.

On October 30th, Skymark Airlines (BC/SKY) announced that they predict a whopping 13.7 billion JPY net loss, its worst ever financial record, for FY2014, reversing a previous forecast for a 354 million JPY net profit. Talks with Airbus regarding the settlement for Skymark's cancellation of the A380 order (Skymark hopes to settle Airbus A380 penalty in October.) have also not bore fruit yet and will continue into November.
Boeing 737-8FZ(WL) JA737U ONE PIECE JET arrives from Naha operating BC858 on October 25th as the final Skymark flight into Narita, ending a three-year presence at the airport. The airline will now concentrate on increasing revenue in its core Haneda market. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Japan's third largest carrier cites increase in costs due to the introduction of the all-premium 271-seat Airbus A330s (Skymark Airlines inaugurates Airbus A330 service.), continued depreciation of the JPY, fuel costs remaining high, and intensified competition with the LCCs as the primary reasons. Skymark hopes to bring up revenue per passenger with the A330, and "Reservations-wise, we're gradually getting there," told Masakazu Arimori, Director of the carrier. The European widebody twin-jets have so far brought a 9.1% increase in capacity over last year, but passenger revenue has decreased 1.4%.

Total assets stood at 77.5 billion JPY, down 1.3 billion JPY from March this year. Capital-to-asset ration decreased from 56.2% in FY2013 to 49.7%. Cash reserves dwindled to 4.5 billion JPY, down 2.5 billion JPY from half a year ago. Skymark will look for loans and also sell off engines (and lease them back), a flight simulator, and other assets to raise cash. Meanwhile, it will continue to rent a hangar at Haneda to carry out a Flight Hour Services (FHS) maintenance deal reached with Airbus in November 2013. Fleet-wise, two Boeing 737-800s, which became surplus after their withdrawal from Narita (Skymark announces Narita closure and Yonago cuts.), will be returned to lessors early, in November and March, respectively, bringing down the number of 737s to 27.

Skymark repeatedly stressed that if they are obliged to pay a hefty penalty for the A380 order termination, the amount of which was originally rumored to be around 700 million USD, there would be "material uncertainty" over whether the company could remain a going concern. They have already paid pre-deposits worth 26.5 billion JPY, more than the airline's market value, but Airbus does not need to refund this and will therefore unlikely do so. The European planemaker would obviously want to make sure they don't lose money, so a buyer for the already completed two airframes (plus a third under assembly) would probably have to be found first.

Reference: Skymark Airlines, October 30th. (PDF; in Japanese)
Reference: Aviation Wire, October 30th. (in Japanese)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

ANA resumes Haneda – Nagoya.

On October 26th, All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) launched once-daily Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) – Nagoya/Chubu Centrair (NGO/RJGG) service, resuming the link connecting Japan's third largest metropolitan area with the capital after a hiatus of 32 years (ANA to resume Haneda – Nagoya in October.). It will be operated by 166-seat (eight Premium Class and 158 economy) Boeing 737-800s. ANA operated between Haneda and Nagoya/Komaki (NKM/RJNA), the city's older airport, until June 1982.
Boeing 737-881(WL) JA78AN prepares for the inaugural departure from Haneda. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

The inaugural flight, NH085, departed at 1830 from Haneda's Spot 71 with a load of 159 passengers. It was operated by 737-881(WL) JA78AN. Although the first flight was near full, bookings for flights after that currently remain "very vacant," according to Takashi Shiki, Executive Vice President at ANA's Sales and Marketing, who was present at the inaugural departure ceremony. Mr. Shiki stressed the need to promote the new route.

Flight Schedule (Oct/26/2014 - Mar/28/2015):
Haneda – Chubu Centrair NEW 1 daily with B737-800.
NH085 HND 1825 – 1930 NGO 73H Daily
NH086 NGO 0750 – 0850 HND 73H Daily

The morning flight from Chubu Centrair to Haneda will feed ANA's extensive Europe routes that depart from Haneda in the daytime hours (ANA's Summer 2014 international expansion.), while the evening Haneda to Chubu Centrair flight is timed to pick up passengers from the return legs from Europe.

"Our customers in Nagoya had been telling us that our newly-expanded international network at Haneda was difficult to access. We also want visitors from other Asian countries to visit Nagoya when coming into Haneda, for example when the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics take place," said Mr. Shiki. "If we start it, we won't stop it. That's the ANA rule. We'll continue to fly the route for years to come," he added.

ANA also operates twice-daily Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) – Chubu Centrair service with either 166-seat Airbus A320s or 126-seat 737-500s (both all-economy), which are timed to feed the airline's international routes at Narita. Load factor for FY2013 was 75.3%, above the system-wide average of 73.9%. Meanwhile, archrival Japan Airlines (JL/JAL), which already operates Haneda – Chubu Centrair twice daily using 737-800s (either 165 seats or 144 seats), saw load factor for the route at 61.0%, below their system-wide average of 64.0%.

Reference: Aviation Wire, October 27th. (in Japanese)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Jetstar Japan starts three routes from Kumamoto.

On October 26th, Jetstar Japan (GK/JJP) launched Kumamoto (KMJ/RJFT) with double-daily flights each to and from Nagoya/Chubu Centrair (NGO/RJGG), Osaka/Kansai (KIX/RJBB), and Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) (Jetstar Japan to launch Kumamoto with three routes.). The capital city of Kumamoto prefecture becomes their fourth destination in Kyushu, and their 11th city overall in their growing network. Jetstar Japan is the first LCC to serve Kumamoto.
Airbus A320-232(SL) JA11JJ takes off from Kumamoto bound for Nagoya Chubu Centrair as their first departure from the Kyushu airport. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

The inaugural arrival, flight GK611 from Narita operated by Airbus A320-232(SL) JA11JJ, touched down at Kumamoto at 0806 JST with a load of 140 passengers. It was greeted by a traditional water cannon salute before coming to a stop at Gate 6. The first departure, flight GK680 to Chubu Centrair, was delayed by a towing bar malfunction, and took off at 0933, approximately 30 minutes behind schedule, carrying 108 passengers. Jetstar Japan's A320s seat 180 in an all-economy layout.

Flight Schedule:
Narita – Kumamoto NEW 2 daily with A320-200. 
GK611 NRT 0620 – 0820 KMJ 32A/320 Mo/Fr/Sa/Su *Oct/26 - Dec/15, Jan/9 - Feb/16. 
GK611 NRT 0620 – 0820 KMJ 32A/320 Daily *Dec/19 - Jan/5, Feb/20 - Mar/28. 
GK613 NRT 0820 – 1020 KMJ 32A/320 Tu/We/Th *Oct/28 - Dec/18, Jan/6 - Feb/19. 
GK615 NRT 1345 – 1550 KMJ 32A/320 Daily 
GK610 KMJ 1245 – 1430 NRT 32A/320 Mo/Fr/Sa/Su *Oct/26 - Dec/15, Jan/9 - Feb/16. 
GK610 KMJ 1245 – 1430 NRT 32A/320 Daily *Dec/19 - Jan/5, Feb/20 - Mar/28. 
GK612 KMJ 1430 – 1615 NRT 32A/320 Tu/We/Th *Jan/6 - Feb/19. 
GK612 KMJ 1435 – 1620 NRT 32A/320 Tu/We/Th *Oct/28 - Dec/18. 
GK614 KMJ 2000 – 2145 NRT 32A/320 Daily  

Kansai – Kumamoto NEW 2 daily with A320-200. 
GK671 KIX 0810 – 0935 KMJ 32A/320 Daily GK673 KIX 1520 – 1645 KMJ 32A/320 Daily 
GK672 KMJ 1005 – 1110 KIX 32A/320 Daily GK674 KMJ 1715 – 1820 KIX 32A/320 Daily  

Kumamoto – Chubu Centrair NEW 2 daily with A320-200. 
GK681 NGO 1045 – 1210 KMJ 32A/320 Mo/Fr/Sa/Su *Oct/26 – Dec/15, Jan/9 - Feb/16. 
GK681 NGO 1045 – 1210 KMJ 32A/320 Daily *Dec/19 - Jan/5, Feb/20 - Mar/28. 
GK683 NGO 1235 – 1400 KMJ 32A/320 Tu/We/Th *Jan/6 - Feb/19. 
GK683 NGO 1240 – 1405 KMJ 32A/320 Tu/We/Th *Oct/28 - Dec/18. 
GK685 NGO 1805 – 1930 KMJ 32A/320 Daily 
GK680 KMJ 0850 – 1000 NGO 32A/320 Mo/Fr/Sa/Su *Oct/26 – Dec/15, Jan/9 - Feb/16. 
GK680 KMJ 0850 – 1000 NGO 32A/320 Daily *Dec/19 - Jan/5, Feb/20 - Mar/28. 
GK682 KMJ 1050 – 1200 NGO 32A/320 Tu/We/Th *Oct/28 - Dec/18, Jan/6 - Feb/19.
GK684 KMJ 1620 – 1730 NGO 32A/320 Daily

"We want everyone to feel free to use us. From those visiting relatives to travelers, we want everyone to make good use of our high-frequency, low-fare services to do that multiple times in one year," said Miyuki Suzuki, CEO of Jetstar Japan. "The inauguration means a lot to us. Opening up these new links to Narita, Kansai, and Chubu greatly enhances our connection to the rest of the world," responded Ikuo Kabashima, Governor of Kumamoto Prefecture, adding "Whenever I go to Tokyo, I will use Jetstar as much as I can!"

Asked which city would be the next on Jetstar Japan's network, Mrs. Suzuki replied "Nothing has been decided yet. For now, we will concentrate on promoting our latest destination." The Japanese affiliate of the successful Australian LCC has yet to serve a city in the northeast, notably Akita (AXT/RJSK), Aomori (AOJ/RJSA), and Sendai (SDJ/RJSS), so it may be one of them. They are also expected to commence international flights to neighboring Asian countries by Spring 2015.

Reference: Aviation Wire, October 26th. (in Japanese)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Star Flyer launches Yamaguchi-Ube.

On October 26th, the beginning of the Winter 2014/2015 timetable, Star Flyer (7G/SFJ) launched three-times daily service to Yamaguchi-Ube (UBJ/RJDC) from Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) (Star Flyer to add Yamaguchi-Ube; but reduce Fukuoka.). 150-seat Airbus A320-200s operate the route, and all flights code-share with All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA), subsidiary of ANA Holdings, which owns 18% of the Kitakyushu (KKJ/RJFR)-based carrier.
Airbus A320-214(SL) JA21MC City of Kitakyushu taxies at Haneda. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

The inaugural flight, 7G011, operated by A320-214(SL) JA21MC, arrived at Yamaguchi-Ube at 0905 JST with a load of 128 passengers. It was greeted by a traditional water cannon salute upon arrival. The first return leg, flight 7G012, departed at 0947 carrying 148 passengers.

Flight Schedule (Oct/26/2014 - Mar/28/2015):
Haneda – Yamaguchi-Ube NEW 3 daily with A320-200.
7G011 HND 0720 – 0905 UBJ 32A/320 Daily
7G013 HND 1245 – 1430 UBJ 32A/320 Daily
7G015 HND 1750 – 19:35 UBJ 32A/320 Daily
7G012 UBJ 0945 – 1115 HND 32A/320 Daily
7G014 UBJ 1515 – 1645 HND 32A/320 Daily
7G016 UBJ 2010 – 2140 HND 32A/320 Daily

Star Flyer cut three of its 10 Haneda – Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF) round-trips to free up three slot-pairs at the heavily-regulated Tokyo airport for the new service. Along with the launch, they moved all but its flights to Kitakyushu to Haneda's Terminal 2 (used by ANA Group and partners). Meanwhile, ANA axed two of its five Haneda – Yamaguchi-Ube round-trips and put its code on all three of Star Flyer's new flights. So virtually, the launch is more of a transfer of another unprofitable route from ANA to the de facto subsidiary (New Star Flyer President is from ANA.), which has lower costs (but still far from low cost).

Between March 2012 and January 2013, ANA deployed Boeing 787s on the route in a bid to compete against JAL's four daily 737-800 round-trips. However, currently all flights are operated by 270-seat 767-300s and load factor for FY2013 was 53.2%, well below the company average of 61.6%. Meanwhile, Star Flyer was bleeding cash after dumping all of its five new Haneda slot-pairs that were awarded in March 2013 into the Fukuoka market, a high-demand link but also one of the most highly-contested. Passenger numbers went up but sparked a fare-war which hurt the all-important yield. ANA had wanted to reduce flying Haneda – Yamaguchi-Ube without receiving bad publicity, and Star Flyer's restructuring was seen as a perfect vehicle. 

Unfortunately, Star Flyer has joined the likes of AIRDO (HD/ADO) (d.b.a. Air Do) and Skynet Asia Airways (6J/SNJ) (d.b.a. Solaseed Air) in becoming merely a lower-cost feeder carrier for ANA, at least in terms of route network. Why will ANA not simply take over these carriers? All Haneda slots are controlled and allocated by Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB), and the unspoken rule is, if more than 20% of an airline that holds Haneda slots comes under control of another carrier, those slots must be relinquished for redistribution.

Reference: Aviation Wire, October 26th. (in Japanese)

Friday, October 24, 2014

JAL raises Hokkaido Air System stake to 51%.

On October 24th, Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) announced that they have completed the repurchase of its shares in Hokkaido Air System (HC/NTH) (unofficially calling itself HAC) which were sold to Hokkaido Government during JAL's bankruptcy reorganization. 31,500 JPY was paid per share, the same price the local government paid JAL in March 2011. JAL's shareholding in HAC increased from 14.49% to 51.23%, making it part of the JAL Group again.
Saab SF340B-WT JA02HC parked at Sapporo Airfield, more commonly called Okadama Airport. Will HAC introduce JAL's latest crane livery? (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Yoshiharu Ueki, President of JAL, told that the transaction was completed on October 23rd. Governor of Hokkaido Harumi Takahashi said "For HAC to maintain a safe and stable operation, it is best to fly under JAL. Subsidies are now in place, so we would like them to continue flying island routes and maintain the current network." Mr. Ueki answered "JAL will support HAC to improve its sales performance, strengthen its management competence, and maintain its network. We thank for all the support, and would like to ask for continued assistance."

From its hub at Sapporo/Okadama (OKD/RJCO), the smaller but more convenient airport near downtown, HAC currently operates to Hakodate (HKD/RJCH), Kushiro (KUH/RJCK), Misawa (MSJ/RJSM) (CoachFlyer HC330: MSJ - OKD on Hokkaido Air System's Saab SF340.), and Rishiri (RIS/RJER), plus a link to Okushiri (OIR/RJEO) from Hakodate, using a fleet of three 36-seat Saab SF340Bs. It was originally founded jointly by Japan Air System (JD/JAS) and the Hokkaido Government in September 1997 to provide high-speed public transportation between the island's major cities as well as the small remote islands.

HAC was finally starting to show positive results. For FY2013, total revenue was 2.6 billion JPY (up 21.0% from FY2012), operating profit was 34.9 million JPY (FY 2012 saw a 356.5 million JPY loss), ordinary profit was 64.5 million JPY (296.3 million JPY loss in FY2012), and net income was 138.4 million JPY, as opposed to a 296.2 million JPY loss in FY2012.

Reference: Aviation Wire, October 24th. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

BusinessFlyer JC1685: Haneda – Okayama on JAL Express.

Having arrived on a morning flight into Tokyo International Airport (HND/RJTT), or more commonly called Haneda Airport, I spent some time in the credit-card-sponsored lounge in the South Wing of Terminal 1, where most flights to destinations south of Tokyo depart from. The simple credit card lounge is housed with sofas, massage chairs, working desks, and offers some basic amenities as well as a beverage bar. Light snacks can be purchased.
Our aircraft: Boeing 737-846(WL) JA327J still in the Arc of the Sun livery. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

These domestic lounges, eligible for use by selected gold credit card holders, are different from JAL's luxurious and peaceful Sakura Lounge, which is offered for First Class customers, Japan Mileage Bank (JMB) Diamond and Saffire flyers, and JAL Global Club (JGC) members. I was booked for Class J, JAL's domestic business class product, but that doesn't qualify.
Boarding at Gate 8 of the South Wing of Haneda's Terminal 1. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Boarding for my flight JC1685 (branded as JL1685) to Okayama (OKJ/RJOB) commenced right at the time I arrived at Gate 8 (Spot 8) at 1215, starting with handicapped persons, pregnant mothers, and children under two, followed by JMB Diamond flyers, JGC premier members, and Oneworld Emerald holders. Class J passengers are not eligible for priority boarding.
My Class J seat for the flight. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

JAL normally organizes boarding for the rest of the passengers by calling those with seats in the aft rows to get on first, however, because the flight was only half full, the gate staff decided to let everyone board at the same time. While I was getting myself seated in the fourth row, flight attendants started handing out blankets while children received toys and stickers.
Climbing over Miura Peninsula. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

At 1237 JST, the door was closed, but we had to wait for some transfer bags to be loaded. Soon after at 1242, we were pushed back, just two minutes behind scheduled departure time. The two CFM International CFM56-7B engines were started, and we were taxiing in five minutes. Here in Japan, ground handling personnel will always wave good-bye at you after push-back is finished and the airplane starts moving on its own power, so remember to look outside the window! If they notice you waved back, they might give you a bow in return.
The Class J cabin is in a five-abreast (3-2) layout. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

We taxied to the threshold of Runway 16R and took off at 1252, banking to the right heading southwest as we were climbing over Tokyo Bay and Miura Peninsula. Our aircraft for today was Boeing 737-846(WL) JA327J, which was delivered to JAL Express (JC/JEX) (JAL Express is merged into JAL.) on March 10th, 2010. All domestic-configured 737-800s seat 20 in Class J and 145 in economy. At 1258 the seat belt signs were turned off just as we passed Miura Peninsula. The crew shortly gave an announcement to advertise recommended products from the JAL Shop catalog in the seat pocket.
Inside the seat pocket: JAL's Skyward magazine, JAL Shop catalog, and safety leaflet. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Approximately 10 minutes later, the cabin crew commenced in-flight service, which consisted of just a complementary beverage selection. Having an identical product as its parent, JEX offers hot coffee (branded as JAL Cafe Lines), apple juice, consommé soup, seasonal fruit juice (branded as JAL Sky Time), which was 'shiikwaasaa' (Citrus depressa), hot and cold green tea, water, and coke. Nothing special but adequate, as most Japanese domestic flights from Tokyo don't take more than a hour and half, except for flights to Okinawa.
Flying somewhere over Aichi. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

At 1310 as the flight attendants were serving passengers, Captain Nakamura made his announcement telling us that we were cruising at 8,500 meters (28,000 feet) at 670 kph (400 mph), and that our flight would last just one hour. Weather at Okayama would be fair with temperatures at 22 degrees Celsius. After beverage service was finished, the cabin crew went through the aircraft offering JAL's in-flight shopping products.
Flying over Fukusaki, near Himeji, on descent. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

As we passed Izu Peninsula, clouds started gathering below, soon blocking our view of the landscape below us completely. We had a smooth cruise, and as we flew over Kyoto, gradual descent started and the cockpit crew informed us that the seat belt lights would be turned on in 15 minutes. At 1340, we passed by Himeji and Ako, and continued our descent over the mountains of the Chugoku Region.
On final approach to Okayama. The prefecture's countryside. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

We touched down on Runway 25 at 1353, and arrived at Spot 2 at 1355, right on schedule. The door was opened in minutes and our luggage was out by the time we reached the baggage claim. Traveling to the city of Okayama, situated southwest of the airport, is straightforward using a bus that leaves from right in front of the arrivals hall. We caught the 1415 bus, which took half an hour at a cost of 760 JPY.
Okayama Airport is well connected to major stations with buses that are timed with arrivals and departures of the flights. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Although touted as business class, Class J is more akin to a premium-economy product. For a fare difference that starts from only 1,000 JPY, you get a wider seat with a little more legroom, but that is about it and all other services are the same as in economy. However, again, considering the flight durations of the domestic flights, that might be enough. Those who want something to eat would grab one of the ubiquitous Bento boxes at the airport and have it on the airplane.

Travel Date: May 2014
Flight: JC1685 (marketed as JL1685)
Route: Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) – Okayama (OKJ/RJOB)
Carrier: JAL Express (JC/JEX) operating for Japan Airlines (JL/JAL)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-846(WL) JA327J
Class: Class J (Domestic Business)
Direct distance: 547 kilometers (340 miles)
Flight time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Air Do loads first international charter to Taipei.

AIRDO (HD/ADO) (d.b.a. Air Do) will operate its first ever international services on November 20th and 24th with round-trip Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) – Taipei/Taoyuan (TPE/RCTP) charters, as previously reported in May (Air Do plans Sapporo – Taipei charters in November.). 144-seat Boeing 737-700s will be assigned. The airline was originally founded as Hokkaido International Airlines in November 1996 with the aim of connecting the northernmost island of Japan with regional Asian countries, but changed its name to simply AIRDO effective October 2012.
Boeing 737-781(WL) JA15AN arrives at Air Do's New Chitose hub. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

JTB, Japan's largest travel agency, and Nippon Travel Agency will sell the flights as part of a five-day package tour to visit Taipei from Hokkaido and vice versa. Prices start from 69,800 JPY including fuel surcharge for adults. Tickets cannot be purchased without participating in one of the tours. Air Do plans to hand out their Bear Do mascot stuffed animal along with onion soup packages and flight certificates to the passengers.

Flight Schedule:
New Chitose – Taipei/Taoyuan one-time charter with B737-700.
HD9252 CTS 0825 – 1200 TPE 73W *Nov/20 only.
HD9252 CTS 1315 – 1650 TPE 73W *Nov/24 only.
HD9253 TPE 1300 – 1800 CTS 73W *Nov/20 only. 
HD9253 TPE 1750 – 2250 CTS 73W *Nov/24 only.

Obihiro (OBO/RJCB) in central Hokkaido was also considered, along with cities in Taiwan other than Taipei as well, however, Air Do chose a low-risk route as it had no experience in the overseas market. Domestic-only Obihiro would have required arrangements for a makeshift CIQ facility, while airports of Taiwan other than Taipei don't have ground handling support from partner All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA). ANA Holdings, parent of ANA, has a minority 14% stake in Air Do.

Air Do is evaluating additional regional international charters from Hokkaido for 2015 and beyond, and hopes to have some upgraded to scheduled services before the Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics in 2020. However, established carriers already operate several daily flights into Hokkaido from neighboring Asian countries. Mid-sized carriers like TransAsia Airways (GE/TNA), which now serves three Hokkaido cities from Taipei, have also grown presence, while LCCs such as Hong Kong Express Airways (UO/HKE) (d.b.a. HK Express), Spring Airlines (9C/CQH) (starting New Chitose in December), Tigerair Taiwan (IT/TTW), and V Air are all looking for opportunities. With regional Asian routes generally said to be better suited for LCCs, how will Air Do make it work?

Reference: Aviation Wire, October 17th. (in Japanese)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

First Mitsubishi Regional Jet is rolled out.

On October 18th, Mitsubishi Aircraft officially rolled out the prototype Mitsubishi Regional Jet MRJ in a ceremony held at their factory at Nagoya/Komaki (NKM/RJNA). Registered JA21MJ, it is the first of five test aircraft. This is the first Japanese commercial aircraft since the NAMC YS-11, which was introduced almost half a century ago. Maiden flight is planned for second quarter 2015, starting a three-year-long flight testing and certification process, with certification expected by early 2017 for delivery to launch customer All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) in second quarter 2017.
Mitsubishi Regional Jet prototype MRJ90 JA21MJ at the roll-out ceremony. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

First flight was originally planned for 2011 with deliveries starting in 2013, however, a redesign of the fuselage and wing, as well as Mitsubishi's inexperience in airworthiness certification procedures forced them to delay the project by at least 3.5 years. "The dream of a Made-in-Japan product boasting top-class efficiency and comfort is now becoming reality. We feel very proud to be able to offer the MRJ to the world with confidence," said Hideaki Omiya, Chairman of Mitsubishi. Meanwhile, Shinichiro Ito, President and CEO of ANA Holdings, parent of launch customer ANA, went on to congratulate "Seeing the MRJ, I am deeply moved. We are eager to take the first aircraft, and it is an honor to become the first operator."

Along with Mr. Omiya, Teruaki Kawai, President and COO of Mitsubishi also presented the brand-new airplane to over 500 guests, including Mr. Ito, as well as Yoshiharu Ueki, President of Japan Airlines (JL/JAL). Invited to the ceremony were also government officials including Akihiro Nishimura, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT), Hideki Niwa, Vice Minister of Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT), and Atsuo Kuroda, Director-General of Manufacturing Industries Bureau at the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI).

Powered by Pratt & Whitney's PurePower PW1200G series geared turbofan engines, the MRJ family consists of the 78-seat MRJ70, which can fly 3,380 kilometers (2,100 miles), and the 92-seat MRJ90, with a 3,310-kilometer (2,050 miles) range. Mitsubishi plans to carry out flight testing utilizing two MRJ90s in Japan and three in the U.S.A. The latter will start taking place in the second half of next year at Grant County (MWH/KMWH) in Moses Lake, Washington. Two static airframes, one of which is already undergoing testing, will be used to measure strength and verify fatigue characteristics. Meanwhile, the MRJ70 will not enter flight testing until the MRJ90 achieves airworthiness certification. Total development cost currently stands at 180 billion JPY.

The MRJ has so far garnered 375 commitments; ANA has 15 firm and 10 options, Trans States Airlines (AX/LOF) has 50 firm and 50 options, SkyWest has 100 firm and 100 options for operations with subsidiaries ExpressJet Airlines (EV/ASQ) and SkyWest Airlines (OO/SKW), Air Mandalay (6T/LMT) has six firm and four options, and yet-to-be-started Eastern Air Lines (Mk II) has 20 firm and 20 options. JAL signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for 32 in August (JAL orders 32 Mitsubishi MRJs and 27 Embraer E-Jets.) and that order is expected to be confirmed soon, bringing the total to 407.

Reference: Aviation Week, October 13th. (in English)
Reference: Mitsubishi Aircraft, October 18th. (in Japanese)
Reference: Aviation Wire, October 18th. (in Japanese)

*Edited/updated on October 19th, 2014.

Friday, October 17, 2014

ANA adds Haneda – Hong Kong midnight flight.

On October 16th, All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) announced that they will add a second Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) – Hong Kong (HKG/VHHH) round-trip from December 20th. The new red-eye flight will depart Japan's capital after midnight and arrive at Hong Kong in the early hours, enabling onward connections, while the return leg from Hong Kong also leaves after midnight for an early morning arrival back in Haneda, allowing for connections on to ANA's extensive domestic network.
Boeing 767-381/ER JA606A FLY! PANDA preparing for departure at Haneda. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Japan's largest carrier will initially operate the round-trip on Mondays, Saturdays, and Sundays, bringing it up to daily from March 9th, 2015. 214-seat (35 business and 179 economy class) Boeing 767-300ERs will be assigned. ANA used to fly a similar flight until October 2010, when the current new international terminal at Tokyo's preferred airport near downtown opened and the airline moved the flight to daytime hours.

Flight Schedule (effective December 20th):
Haneda – Hong Kong from 1 to up to 2 daily with B777-200ER/B767-300ER.
NH1249 HND 0125 – 0525 HKG 76W/763 Mo/Sa/Su *Daily from Mar/9.
NH859 HND 0855 – 1255 HKG 772 Daily
NH1250 HKG 0105 – 0555 HND 76W/763 Mo/Sa/Su *Daily from Mar/9.
NH860 HKG 1425 – 1915 HND 772 Daily

The additional flight is possibly a response to Hong Kong-based LCC Hong Kong Express Airways (UO/HKE) (d.b.a. HK Express) adding a second flight into Haneda from November 18th. Operating 174-seat Airbus A320s, the growing carrier is also adding Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) from December 8th. ANA Holdings' wholly-owned subsidiary LCC Vanilla Air (JW/VNL) is also launching Narita – Hong Kong on November 2nd (Vanilla Air works out details for Hong Kong and Kaohsiung.), increasing the service to double daily from February 21st.

ANA also operates two daily from Narita, while Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) operates a single flight each from Haneda and Narita. Cathay Pacific Airways (CX/CPA) is the market leader with five from Narita and two from Haneda. Delta Air Lines (DL/DAL), which currently operates a single round-trip from Narita, will be ending the service on October 24th.

Reference: Minkei News Hong Kong, October 17th. (in Japanese)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Skymark announces Sapporo – Okinawa seasonal service.

On October 16th, Skymark Airlines (BC/SKY) announced that they will launch winter seasonal non-stop service connecting Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) and Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) from January 29th. It will be operated every Thursday to Sunday until February 28th, and daily from the following day until March 28th. 177-seat Boeing 737-800s will fly the route.
Boeing 737-86N(WL) JA73NF ONE PIECE JET (Skymark to introduce ONE PIECE JET on July 19th.) taxies for departure at New Chitose, the bigger airport serving Sapporo. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Flight Schedule:
New Chitose – Naha NEW 1 daily with B737-800.
BC751 CTS 0930 – 1330 OKA 73H/738 Daily *Th/Fr/Sa/Su only Jan/29 - Feb/28.
BC754 OKA 1430 – 1740 CTS 73H/738 Daily *Th/Fr/Sa/Su only Jan/29 - Feb/28.

One-way fares will range from 11,000 JPY to 43,000 JPY, and tickets will go on sale on October 17th at 1500 JST. The longest domestic route in Japan, covering 2,240 kilometers (1,400 miles) and connecting the northernmost and southernmost major cities, is currently only served by All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) with 176-seat 737-800s. ANA's once-daily round-trip is operated year-round, with fares starting at 21,200 JPY and going as high as 70,100 JPY for the most flexible ticket.

Reference: Skymark Airlines, October 16th. (PDF; in Japanese)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

JAL's Pink Ribbon Jet enters service.

On October 10th, Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) unveiled Pink Ribbon Jet, as part of a joint campaign with Estée Lauder Group, a manufacturer of women's skincare, makeup, fragrance, and haircare products, to promote awareness of breast cancer. The specially-themed aircraft, Boeing 777-246 JA8983, entered service on flight JL107, service from Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) to Osaka/Itami (ITM/RJOO), on the same day.
Boeing 777-246 JA8983 Pink Ribbon Jet taxies at Tokyo's Haneda. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Using the airplane, JAL operated flight JL509 from Haneda to Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) on October 15th under the name Pink Scarf Flight. Cabin attendants wore pink scarves for the occasion, and handed out leaflets explaining how to do a breast self-exam along with pink ribbon badges. For in-flight shopping, a 8,000 JPY Vittorio Godi small leather wallet was introduced as the official campaign product, and a certain share of its sales will be donated to Breast Cancer Network Japan, a patient support community.
The Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign decals will be worn until March 2015. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Started in 2004, the idea for a breast cancer awareness campaign originally came from JAL's employees, the majority of whom are women, like many airlines. JAL's wholly-owned commuter subsidiary J-Air (XM/JLJ) also started participating last year, and operated its own Pink Scarf Flight on the same day on October 15th with flight XM2205, service from Itami to Sendai (SDJ/RJSS).

Reference: Japan Airlines, October 10th. (in Japanese)
Reference: Aviation Wire, October 15th. (in Japanese)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jetstar Japan lost 11.1 billion JPY in its third year.

Jetstar Japan (GK/JJP) posted a staggering 11.1 billion JPY loss for the year ending on June 30th, resulting in three consecutive years in the red. It had lost 8.8 billion JPY last year, from July 1st, 2012 through June 30th, 2013, its second year of operations. Total revenue increased 2.27 times to 29.1 billion JPY, but total costs rose to 36 billion JPY, a whopping 87% increase over the previous year, and operating loss was 6.9 billion JPY.
Airbus A320-232 JA05JJ being pushed back by an automated tower at Narita. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

The Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA)-based LCC cited repeated delays in setting up its second hub at Kansai (Jetstar Japan launches Kansai hub.), which was finally launched in June, as the biggest reason. Insufficient number of trained maintenance personnel led them to postpone the launch five times, with as many as five to six of the 18 Airbus A320s sitting idle at Narita, bringing down aircraft utilization. Planned regional international routes also had to be deferred. These coupled with a depreciated JPY and high fuel prices led to increased costs well exceeding increased revenue.

Meanwhile, shareholders' equity decreased by 19.6% from 515 million JPY to 414 million JPY. Voting rights-based, the Japanese unit of the Australian-born brand is controlled 33.3% by Japan Airlines (JL/JAL), 33.3% by Qantas Airways (QF/QFA), 16.7% by Mitsubishi, and 16.7% by Century Tokyo Leasing. After posting a loss one year ago, it received a capital injection of 11 billion JPY together from JAL and Qantas. "Nothing has been decided regarding another capital injection," said a Jetstar Japan spokesperson, who emphasized "We want to make this our last year in the red." JAL has cash, but loss-making Qantas may not be in a position to make further injections. For how long can Jetstar Japan and its shareholders withstand the huge losses?

Although Jetstar Japan continues to bleed red ink, the brand is gradually becoming recognized, tickets can be easily bought at Lawson, one of Japan's ubiquitous convenience store chains, their Kansai hub is up and running, and they are on expansion mode again (Jetstar Japan to launch Kumamoto with three routes.) with first regional international flights also expected in early 2015. Now with all the pieces of its initial business model finally coming together, their fourth year would be a litmus test to prove whether its business plan actually works.

Meanwhile, rival Peach Aviation (MM/APJ), which is only four months older, achieved its first full-year profit in their third year (Peach reports first full-year profit for FY2013.). Yes, the two are different; strategy-wise Peach sees international eventually accounting for 70% of their revenue while Jetstar Japan has much more emphasis on the domestic market, while in terms of hubs, Narita has slot-restrictions plus a curfew which Kansai doesn't, just to give some examples. Nevertheless, Peach's positive results should be putting some pressure.

Reference: Aviation Wire, October 10th. (in Japanese)

*Edited/updated on October 15th, 2014.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

ANA to expand Narita international ops in FY2015.

All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) will expand its international network at Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) in FY2015, according to Osamu Shinobe, President of ANA speaking at a press conference in Tokyo on October 8th. Although he refrained from giving details, ANA is considering adding five new round-trips that would "strengthen Narita as a major connecting hub between Asia and North America." The five would include new cities as well as frequency increases.
Boeing 767-381/ER(WL) JA624A arrives into Narita. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

On March 30th this year, ANA's international presence at Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT), the preferred downtown airport serving the capital, jumped from 13 round-trips covering 10 routes to 23 round-trips covering 17 destinations (ANA's Summer 2014 international expansion.). Now that Haneda has grown to about 60 - 70% the size of ANA's Narita operations, the focus is back on Narita, which will gradually increase slots, while Haneda will not see any more slots available in the near term.

"We will continue to pursue our Haneda/Narita dual-hub strategy. Narita is an important international hub and we will continue to grow there," added Shinichiro Ito, President and CEO of ANA Holdings, parent of ANA. The Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) enforces an unspoken rule that all carriers flying international routes out of Haneda must fly to that country from Narita as well. Asked about what is commonly referred to as the 'Narita rule', Mr. Ito told "It would be best for airlines to have freedom, but international routes are agreements between two nations and we must respect that."

New overseas partnerships are on the horizon, with Mr. Shinobe revealing "We are considering a partnership with Avianca." ANA will also not hesitate to look outside of Star Alliance, with a new pact reached with Philippine Airlines (PR/PAL) on October 1st and the signing of deeper relations with Brazil's TAM (JJ/TAM), now a Oneworld member, on October 7th. A proposed 3 billion JPY investment in Myanmar's Asian Wings Airways (YJ/AWM) has been shelved after the market became overcrowded, but Mr. Ito said "We will continue to look for investments where there are potential synergies. A few are already on the table for evaluation," without disclosing any. Vietnam Airlines (VN/HVN) is thought to be one of them.

Meanwhile, ANA's first experiment with a red-eye domestic flight this summer on the Haneda – Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) route (ANA offers red-eye Haneda - Okinawa 'Galaxy Flight'.) saw an average load factor of 82%, and the carrier is considering making it a regularly scheduled flight. 16,000 passengers were carried between July 18th and August 31st on the round-trip flight which is usually a cargo flight that is operated by a passenger aircraft using only its belly space.

Asked whether Japan's raising of sales tax by 3% to 8% from April this year is having an effect, Mr. Ito responded "I'm aware that overall people's spendings have decreased, but for travel, that has not been the case."

Reference: Reuters Japan, October 8th. (in Japanese) 
Reference: Aviation Wire, October 9th. (in Japanese)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Jetstar Japan inaugurates Kansai – Oita.

On October 9th, Jetstar Japan (GK/JJP) launched Osaka/Kansai (KIX/RJBB) – Oita (OIT/RJFO) service (Jetstar Japan to start Kansai – Oita in October.), which became the 15th route for the growing LCC. All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) previously operated the route until suspending it in December 2003. The inaugural flight GK651 was operated by Airbus A320-232(SL) JA16JJ, departing Kansai at 1510 JST and touching down at the Kyushu airport at 1553.
Airbus A320-232(SL) JA06JJ comes into land at Sapporo's New Chitose. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Flight Schedule:
Kansai – Oita NEW 1 daily with A320-200.
GK651 KIX 1455 – 1600 OIT 32A/320 Mon/Tue/Wed/Thu/Sat/Sun *Oct/1 - 25.
GK651 KIX 1510 – 1615 OIT 32A/320 Fri *Oct/1 - 25.
GK651 KIX 1150 – 1255 OIT 32A/320 Daily *Oct/26 - Mar/28/2015.
GK652 OIT 1645 – 1745 KIX 32A/320 Daily *Oct/1 - 25.
GK652 OIT 1325 – 1425 KIX 32A/320 Daily *Oct/26 - Mar/28/2015.

One-way fares will range from 5,490 JPY to 22,490 JPY, excluding the 430 JPY processing fee. Oita becomes the fifth destination from Jetstar Japan's recently-launched Kansai hub (Jetstar Japan launches Kansai hub.) after Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF), Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH), Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC), and Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA), bringing the number of their Kansai flights to up to 28 per day.

Next on the Narita-based LCC's radar is Kumamoto (KMJ/RJFT), to be started on October 26th (Jetstar Japan to launch Kumamoto with three routes.), and additional new destinations plus their first international routes are expected to be announced soon. Although their fleet of Airbus A320s had been capped at 18 due to lack of maintenance personnel, it will be on expansion mode again with three new examples to be delivered by the end of this year.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

ANA to launch domestic Wi-Fi product in FY2015.

On October 8th, All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) announced that they will launch in-flight internet connectivity for domestic services in FY2015. Japan's largest carrier eventually plans to have approximately 100 aircraft, including Boeing 777s, 787s, and many other aircraft with over 100 seats, offering the new product.
Boeing 777-381/ER JA733A taxies at Narita. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Flights from Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) to Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF), Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH), Osaka/Itami (ITM/RJOO), and Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) would be the first to see the service, naturally. Details of the providing firm along with prices would be released in due course.

Branded 'ANA WiFi Service', ANA already offers in-flight internet connection on selected international flights on selected days (ANA to offer in-flight Wi-Fi for international from March.), with retrofitting of 19 Boeing 777-300ERs and nine 767-300ER to be completed by March 2015. 32 additional international-configured aircraft, mostly expected to be 787s, will receive the upgrade in FY2015. Service is provided by SITA subsidiary OnAir, formerly a joint-venture with Airbus.

ANA comes late, as archrival Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) has been offering domestic in-flight Wi-Fi since July (JAL SKY Wi-Fi to be launched on July 23rd.) and is well underway in retrofitting 77 aircraft by mid-2016, while Skymark Airlines (BC/SKY) also commenced service on board their all-premium Airbus A330s in August (Skymark to offer free Wi-Fi on Airbus A330.). JAL provides the service at a cost, while Skymark offers it free of charge.

Reference: All Nippon Airways, October 8th. (in Japanese)
Reference: Aviation Wire, October 8th. (in Japanese)