Sunday, January 25, 2015

Skymark takes ANA & JAL dual tie-up, axes Sendai – Sapporo.

Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] is preparing to submit a code-share pact with both All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] and Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] to the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB), hopefully in time for March 29th, the beginning of the Summer 2015 timetable. The deadline for applying for domestic routes for this summer was January 21st, but the three carriers put off submitting the dual partnership as "preparations couldn't make it in time," according to both ANA and JAL.

Airbus A330-343E JA330B is pushed back at Haneda. What was a product to better compete with ANA and JAL became part of their cost burden, decreased load factors, and is now calling for its two archrivals to help fill its seats. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

"We need to understand the details of Skymark's policies," said an ANA spokesperson, while its counterpart at JAL also said "We are currently evaluating the proposal to make it in time for March 29th." Under the scheme, ANA would place its code on all five of Skymark's five routes from Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT]; Fukuoka [FUK/RJFF], Kagoshima [KOJ/RJFK], Kobe [UKB/RJBE], Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH], and Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC]. JAL will place its code on all but to Kobe, where it no longer has a presence. There's no deadline for code-sharing, however, the more it is delayed, the shorter the time they have to sell the seats.

The code-share pact is vital for Japan's third largest carrier to stay afloat, as selling 20% of its seats on routes from Haneda is expected to generate an annual 8 billion JPY in increased revenue. Skymark is also negotiating with four financial institutions for capital injection through third-party allocation of new shares. The number of shares is expected to be increased by up to 25%, and to receive approval they have called for an extraordinary (emergency) shareholders' meeting, though the February 18th date has been postponed to a later date.

Rumors circulated in early January that Skymark was evaluating an investment from ANA (Running out of time: Will Skymark join ANA?), however, that seems to have been shelved. ANA's reported acquisition of just a few points short of 20% of Skymark's shares on condition that the Airbus A380 cancellation penalty (Skymark hopes to settle Airbus A380 penalty in October.) is settled and most significantly, current senior executives are replaced by those from ANA, was probably unacceptable to the troubled carrier, whose President and CEO Shinichi Nishikubo has reiterated "We take great pride that we have been independent without the help of any major carriers, which has enabled us to change the industry significantly."

Meanwhile, the cash-strapped airline also announced they would be suspending its three-times daily Sendai [SDJ/RJSS] – New Chitose service on March 28th. Its load factor has been hovering around 30-40% in recent months. The route sees competition from AIRDO [HD/ADO] (d.b.a. Air Do), ANA, IBEX Airlines [FW/IBX], and JAL. Its until recently focus city of Yonago [YGJ/RJOH] (Skymark mulls Yonago pull-out and Sendai cuts.) will continue to see nonstop service to Kobe and Naha, however, if load factors do not improve during Summer 2015, they are probably the next in line for the axe.

In other news, Skymark's all-premium 271-seat Airbus A330 (Skymark Airlines inaugurates Airbus A330 service.) will be deployed on the Haneda Naha route starting on June 1st, when the southern beach resorts become popular in the summer months. It becomes the third A330 route after Fukuoka and New Chitose.

Source: Skymark Airlines, January 21st. (in Japanese) 
Source: Nikkei Shimbun, January 21st. (in Japanese)

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