Sunday, February 22, 2015

Peach commences Okinawa – Hong Kong.

On February 21st, Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] launched four-times-weekly Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH] – Hong Kong [HKG/VHHH] service with 180-seat Airbus A320s, as announced in September last year (Peach announces Okinawa – Hong Kong.). The new link becomes the Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB]-headquartered LCC's seventh international route overall, and its fourth nonstop destination from its second hub at Naha (Peach launches Naha hub; but Naha – Ishigaki axed.).

Peach's Naha staff see off Airbus A320-214 JA803P depart on their inaugural flight to Hong Kong on February 21st. The launch of their long-awaited first route to Southeast Asia from the Ryukyu airport this summer will likely coincide with their 15th A320 delivery in July. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

The last time the route saw a Japanese carrier operating was until March 2003 with Japan Airlines [JL/JAL]; Peach thus becomes the first LCC to fly the route and the first Japanese airline in 12 years.

The inaugural outbound flight MM965 departed Naha at 1522 JST with a load of 127 passengers, including three children. A320-214 JA803P was assigned to the flight. Meanwhile, the first inbound flight MM964 touched down at Naha at 1605 JST with 168 passengers on board. It was operated by A320-214 JA801P. Victor L. L. Chu, Chairman of Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Investment Group, which owns 33.3% of Peach, was also on the inaugural inbound leg.

Flight Schedule (Feb/21 - Mar/28)
Naha – Hong Kong NEW 4 weekly with A320-200.
MM965 OKA 1645 – 1830 HKG 320 Mo
MM965 OKA 1530 – 1715 HKG 320 We
MM965 OKA 1525 – 1710 HKG 320 Sa
MM965 OKA 1305 – 1450 HKG 320 Su
MM964 HKG 1235 – 1550 OKA 320 Mo/We/Sa/Su

Flight Schedule (Mar/29 - Oct/24)
Naha – Hong Kong 3 weekly with A320-200.
MM965 OKA 1340 – 1505 HKG 320 Mo/Fr/Sa
MM964 HKG 1230 – 1600 OKA 320 Mo/Fr/Sa

One-way fares start from 7,180 JPY. Peach has initially decided to serve the route four times a week, but will reduce to three times during the upcoming Summer 2015 timetable. CEO Shinichi Inoue says he wants to fly the route daily, as soon as favorable slot times become available at the bustling airport serving the former British colony. "Inbound demand has been extraordinary, and I'm convinced that Okinawa is already a very attractive destination," Mr. Inoue commented, adding "We wanted to launch the route in time for the Chinese New Year peak travel period."

Meanwhile, Mr. Inoue also confirmed that their first destination in Southeast Asia will be served from Naha this summer, and the city will be revealed in March. "From Naha, we eventually want to fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore," said Mr. Inoue. Earlier in February, Airports of Thailand (AoT), which manages the kingdom's six major international airports, disclosed that Peach is discussing Naha – Bangkok/Don Mueang [DMK/VTBD] (Peach mulls Okinawa – Bangkok.). With Thailand now being Japan's sixth biggest inbound market accounting for 4.9% of all foreign visitors, and Japan the most popular outbound market for Thailand, this route is highly likely to become Peach's first link to Southeast Asia.

The Naha hub was launched in July 2014 with ambitions to use it as a scissors hub to funnel passengers between the main islands of Japan and Southeast Asia. From their Okinawa hub, the growing LCC serves Fukuoka [FUK/RJFF], Kansai, Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP], and now Hong Kong. Naha – Ishigaki, which was axed in July 2014 owing to heavy competition (Peach launches Naha hub; but Naha – Ishigaki axed.), could be resumed when the airline has "enough resources to fly two or three daily flights," Mr. Inoue said. Miyako [MMY/ROMY] is also on Peach's radar. Meanwhile, a third hub is being set up at Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] (Peach confirms Narita hub; adds Fukuoka and Sapporo.).

Source: Ryukyu Shimpo, February 21st. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, February 21st. (in Japanese)

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