Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Peach starts Narita to Fukuoka and Sapporo.

On March 29th, Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] strengthened its network from Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA], inaugurating Fukuoka [FUK/RJFF] and Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC] with two round-trips and one, respectively, using 180-seat Airbus A320s. Kanto (Greater Tokyo) region's primary international gateway has been designated its third hub (Peach confirms Narita hub; adds Fukuoka and Sapporo.) after Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] and Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH] (Peach launches Naha hub; but Naha – Ishigaki axed.). 

An Airbus A320 of Peach arrives at Narita. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

The first flight to Fukuoka as MM523 departed Narita at 0908 JST, eight minutes behind schedule, carrying 166 passengers, and arrived at the Kyushu airport at 1125, 20 minutes later than the published time. A320-214 JA810P was assigned. Meanwhile, the first inbound flight from Sapporo as MM582 departed New Chitose at 0941, six minutes late, with a load of 167 passengers, and arrived at Narita at 1112, two minutes behind schedule. A320-214 JA814P operated the flight. 

Flight Schedule:
Narita – Fukuoka NEW 2 daily with A320-200. (Mar/29 - Oct/24)
MM523 NRT 0900 – 1105 FUK 320 Daily
MM525 NRT 1330 – 1535 FUK 320 Daily
MM524 FUK 1220 – 1410 NRT 320 Daily
MM526 FUK 1610 – 1800 NRT 320 Daily

Narita – New Chitose NEW 1 daily with A320-200. (Mar/29 - Oct/24)
MM585 NRT 1455 – 1640 CTS 320 Daily
MM582 CTS 0935 – 1110 NRT 320 Daily

"Peach changes people's lifestyles. Peach brings positive changes to the cities we fly to. You can expect a lot from us," enthused CEO Shinichi Inoue. Fukuoka and Sapporo became the second and third cities served from Narita by the growing LCC, after it launched a link from its base at Kansai on October 27th, 2013. Peach now flies Kansai – Narita three times daily. One-way fares from Narita to Fukuoka will range from 4,790 JPY to 23,590 JPY, while the flight to New Chitose will start from 3,990 JPY and go up to 23,190 JPY.

Peach is engaging itself in a new round of battle against Narita-headquartered rival Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP], which opened their second hub at Kansai, Peach's home base, in June 2014 (Jetstar Japan launches Kansai hub.). Sister LCC Vanilla Air [JW/VNL], a wholly-owned subsidiary of ANA Holdings, which also controls 38.67% of Peach, is also based at Narita. The Chiba airport thus becomes the first airport to become a hub for all four Japanese LCCs, though Peach has opted against moving into Narita's new LCC Terminal, dubbed Terminal 3, which is slated to open on April 8th.

The Narita – New Chitose route became the first to see three LCCs competing along with majors All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] and Japan Airlines [JL/JAL], though the majors mostly cater to passengers connecting with international flights. For Summer 2015, Vanilla Air will fly up to eight round-trips and Jetstar Japan up to seven, with ANA and JAL with two and one, respectively. Narita – Fukuoka is served by Jetstar Japan up to seven times daily, ANA double-daily, and JAL with a single round-trip. Vanilla Air does not fly to the Kyushu airport, though predecessor AirAsia Japan (Mk I) [JW/WAJ] used to (CoachFlyer JW8541: NRT - FUK on AirAsia Japan's Airbus A320.).

Peach currently flies 14 aircraft on 12 domestic and seven international routes covering 15 destinations. It continues to develop its Naha hub adding Hong Kong [HKG/VHHH] on February 21st (Peach commences Okinawa – Hong Kong.), to be followed by Seoul/Incheon [ICN/RKSI] on September 4th (Peach announces Okinawa – Seoul.). Several more Asian destinations are in the cards, including Bangkok (Peach mulls Okinawa – Bangkok.) and Macau (Peach reveals Macau in the works.). Meanwhile, they have also announced intentions to make Sendai [SDJ/RJSS] its fourth hub by 2017 (Peach plans Sendai hub by Summer 2017.).

Source: Aviation Wire, March 29th. (in Japanese)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Jetstar Japan commences Nagoya – Okinawa.

On March 29th, Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP] inaugurated Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG] – Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH] with a daily frequency operated by 180-seat Airbus A320s (Jetstar Japan to start Nagoya – Okinawa.). It became the 20th route for the Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA]-headquartered LCC, while they are the first LCC to connect the two cities. Meanwhile, their twice-daily Chubu Centrair – Kumamoto [KMJ/RJFT] service (Jetstar Japan starts three routes from Kumamoto.) has been reduced to once daily.

Airbus A320-232(SL) JA06JJ departs Nagoya's Chubu Centrair on the inaugural flight to Naha in Okinawa. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

The first flight out of Chubu Centrair as GK381 departed Gate 7 at 1207 JST, 12 minutes behind schedule, carrying 169 passengers, including four children and infants. It was operated by A320-232(SL) JA06JJ. "Naha is a strong leisure-demand destination along with Sapporo, and the traveling public has been waiting for an LCC," said Hiroshi Kawakami, President of Central Japan International Airport, which operates Nagoya's global gateway.

Flight Schedule:
Chubu Centrair – Naha NEW 1 daily with A320-200. (2015/Mar/29 - Oct/24)
GK381 NGO 1155 – 1415 OKA 32A/320 Daily
GK382 OKA 1505 – 1715 NGO 32A/320 Daily

Naha becomes Jetstar Japan's fifth nonstop destination from Chubu Centrair after Fukuoka [FUK/RJFF], Kagoshima [KOJ/RJFK], Kumamoto, and Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC]. Now that its second hub at Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] (Jetstar Japan launches Kansai hub.) has been set up, they are expected to develop a third hub at the airport serving the nation's third largest metropolitan region. AirAsia Japan (Mk II) is also expected to establish its main base at Chubu Centrair with flights to begin before the end of this year (New AirAsia Japan's first Airbus A320 due in July.).

The Chubu Centrair – Naha route sees competition from All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] with twice-daily service, fellow Japan Airlines [JL/JAL]-affiliate Japan Transocean Air [NU/JTA] four times daily, Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] daily, and Skynet Asia Airways [6J/SNJ] (d.b.a. Solaseed Air), which also launched the route on the same day as Jetstar Japan (Solaseed Air expands Okinawa with Ishigaki and Nagoya.), with a daily round-trip.

Source: Aviation Wire, March 29th. (in Japanese)
Source: Traicy, March 29th. (in Japanese)

*Edited/corrected on March 31st, 2015.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Solaseed Air expands Okinawa with Ishigaki and Nagoya.

On March 29th, Skynet Asia Airways [6J/SNJ] (d.b.a. Solaseed Air) launched twice-daily Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH] – Ishigaki [ISG/ROIG] and daily Naha – Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG] services using 174-seat Boeing 737-800s (Solaseed Air loads Okinawa to Ishigaki and Nagoya.). Both routes code-share with All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA], whose parent ANA Holdings controls 8.56% of Solaseed Air. It is virtually a transferring of routes, as ANA dropped an identical number of frequencies on the two routes on the same day.

Boeing 737-86N(WL) JA811X touches down at Ishigaki completing its inaugural flight. Solaseed Air's expansion coincides with the arrival of their 12th aircraft, which was only delivered on March 18th. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

The inaugural flight to Ishigaki, flight 6J045, operated by 737-86N(WL) JA811X, departed Naha at 1113 JST with a full load of 174 passengers including five children, and touched down at the gateway to the Yaeyama Islands at 1207. The first return leg 6J046 departed Ishigaki at 1255 carrying 165 passengers, including one child, and arrived back at Naha at 1344. Meanwhile, the first flight from Chubu Centrair as 6J069, operated by 737-86N(WL) JA806X, carried 173 passengers including one child.

Flight Schedule:
Naha – Ishigaki NEW 2 daily with 737-800. (Mar/29 - Oct/24)
6J045 OKA 1115 – 1215 ISG 73H Daily *Departs/arrives 10 minutes early Jul/1 - Sep/30.
6J049 OKA 1745 – 1845 ISG 73H Daily
6J046 ISG 1250 – 1345 OKA 73H Daily *Departs/arrives 10 minutes early Jul/1 - Sep/30.
6J050 ISG 1920 – 2015 OKA 73H Daily

Naha – Chubu Centrair NEW daily with 737-800. (Mar/29 - Oct/24)
6J070 OKA 1200 – 1410 NGO 73H Daily *Arrives 5 minutes late Jul/1 - Sep/30.
6J069 NGO 1445 – 1710 OKA 73H Daily *Departs 5 minutes late Jul/1 - Sep/30.

Naha – Ishigaki saw Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] axe the route in July last year (Peach launches Naha hub; but Naha – Ishigaki axed.), while Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] also operated its last flight on March 28th as part of their bankruptcy reorganizing (Skymark to cut 15% of flights, ground all Airbus A330s.). ANA reduced its frequency to six, while Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] affiliates Japan Transocean Air [NU/JTA] and Ryukyu Air Commuter [RAC] together continue to operate nine daily round-trips. Solaseed Air cut its 28-day advance one-way fare to 4,800 JPY after local governments complained that its initial price was higher than Skymark.

Meanwhile, Naha – Chubu Centrair sees four daily round-trips operated by JTA, two by ANA, and a single frequency by Skymark. Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP] also entered the route with a single round-trip on the same day on March 29th (Jetstar Japan to start Nagoya – Okinawa.), becoming the first LCC to serve the market.

Although not designated a hub, Solaseed Air has a growing Naha operation, which boasts two daily flights to Kagoshima [KOJ/RJFK], three to Kobe [UKB/RJBE], and one to Miyazaki [KMI/RJFM], in addition to the newly-launched destinations. In other news, the Kyushu-based airline is planning its first international charters (Solaseed Air eyes international charters in FY2015.) this year, linking Kyushu and Okinawa with neighboring Asian destinations.

Source: Aviation Wire, March 29th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, March 29th. (in Japanese)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

JAL contemplating Dallas-Fort Worth.

Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] is considering Dallas-Fort Worth [DFW/KDFW], according to President Yoshiharu Ueki, especially after Toyota decided to move its North American headquarters to the Texas metropolis by 2017. Dallas-Fort Worth is the biggest hub of joint-venture (JV) and Oneworld partner American Airlines [AA/AAL], which currently operates double-daily to Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] from the Texas airport.

Boeing 777-246/ER JA705J Contrail departs Haneda. JAL has decided to refurbish most, if not all 11, of their 777-200ERs with their award-winning Sky Suite new interior product. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

"Dallas is an important destination under consideration, and we are discussing with American," said Mr. Ueki, revealing the two carriers are talking about JAL taking over one of American's two daily round-trips. "American has an extensive network to Latin America, and Dallas is also a good transfer city for Mexico, which is seeing more automobile companies establishing bases," Mr. Ueki continued, though refraining from giving any time frame.

JAL, which just resumed Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] – Los Angeles [LAX/KLAX] on March 20th (JAL resumes Kansai – Los Angeles.), is keen on strengthening North America. Mr. Ueki prefers to serve Dallas from Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT], which has nine daytime international slot-pairs for U.S.A. routes that have yet to be distributed, due to the authorities so far being unable to reach an agreement regarding which side receives how many. "Customers are calling for more North American routes from Haneda. We hope to see the two countries making progress in talks. JAL is ready to fly anytime," said Mr. Ueki.

Meanwhile, rival All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] is already preparing to launch daily Narita – Houston/George Bush [IAH/KIAH] on June 12th (ANA announces Houston and Southeast Asia expansion.), becoming the first Japanese carrier to serve the Lone Star State. Houston is a hub for JV and Star Alliance partner United Airlines [UA/UAL].

Source: Nikkei Shimbun, March 23rd. (in Japanese)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fuji Dream's ninth Embraer E-Jet is Gold.

Fuji Dream Airlines [JH/FDA] took delivery of Embraer ERJ170-200/STD (E175) JA09FJ, their ninth aircraft, on March 19th. Painted and named Gold, it is Japan's first E-Jet featuring the Brazilian manufacturer's Fuel Burn Improvement Package 2, which boasts new wingtips and several other minor aerodynamic changes such as wheel caps and auxiliary power unit (APU) air inlet improvements, resulting in a 5.5% reduction in fuel burn. Other changes include new LED navigation lights.

Embraer ERJ170-200/STD (E175) JA09FJ Gold arrives at Komaki on delivery. (Photo: FDA)

The 84-seat aircraft departed São José dos Campos [SJK/SBSJ] on that day and arrived four days later today on March 23rd at their Nagoya/Komaki [NKM/RJNA] hub, flying a similar route as previous deliveries (Fuji Dream Airlines receives eighth E-Jet 'Tea Green'.) and making stops at Natal [NAT/SBNT], Espargos [SID/GVAC], Almeria [LEI/LEAM], Larnaca [LCA/LCLK], Dubai/Al Maktoum [DWC/OMDW], Kolkata/Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose [CCU/VECC], and Ho Chi Minh/Tan Son Nhat [SGN/VVTS].

It will enter service on March 25th on Komaki – Aomori [AOJ/RJSA] (flights JH361/362), Komaki – Kumamoto [KMJ/RJFT] (flights JH325/326), and Komaki – Hanamaki [HNA/RJSI] (flights JH357/358), while it will make its first appearance at the airline's Shizuoka [FSZ/RJNS] home base and Matsumoto [MMJ/RJAF] focus city on April 3rd.

Fuji Dream staff at Komaki welcome Gold. (Photo: FDA)

The addition of their ninth aircraft allows the niche regional carrier based at Nagoya's older but more convenient airport near downtown to launch daily Komaki – Izumo [IZO/RJOC] and twice-daily Komaki – Kitakyushu [KKJ/RJFR] services on March 29th, the beginning of the Summer 2015 timetable (Fuji Dream confirms Izumo and Kitakyushu.). Fuji Dream will take delivery of their 10th E-Jet in March 2016, however, it is considering basing the aircraft at Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG], the bigger but farther airport, due to the lack of parking space at Komaki.

Source: Fuji Dream Airlines, March 23rd. (in Japanese)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Skymark's total debts skyrocket to 300 billion JPY.

Skymark Airlines' [BC/SKY] total liabilities grew to nearly 300 billion JPY, after all creditors filed claims by the March 18th deadline specified by the Tokyo District Court, where Japan's third largest carrier sought for bankruptcy protection (Skymark to file for bankruptcy.) in January. Airbus is demanding 700 million USD (84 billion JPY) in compensation for the canceled Airbus A380 order (Skymark hopes to settle Airbus A380 penalty in October.), while aircraft lessor Intrepid Aviation is seeking 900 million USD (108 billion JPY) for scrapping seven A330 lease contracts (Skymark terminates all Airbus A330 leases.).

Two of Skymark's Airbus A330-300Es are seen grounded at Tokyo International Airport at Haneda. All five could be heading out to the desert for long-term storage, now that the leases have been terminated. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Other major creditors include ANA Trading, Boeing, Central Japan International Airport (operator of Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG]), Japan Airlines [JL/JAL], Japan Airport Terminal (operator of Terminals 1 & 2 at Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT]), and Shinichi Nishikubo (Skymark's former CEO). The embattled carrier had earlier estimated its liabilities at 71 billion JPY, excluding claims from Airbus and leasing firms. A 300 billion JPY debt would push Skymark into insolvency, as their total assets stood at 74 billion JPY as of December 2014. The airline is expected to perform a 100% capital reduction. 

By April 15th, Skymark will issue a statement of approval or disapproval for the submitted claims, and the cash-strapped airline and creditors have between April 22nd and May 8th to negotiate final figures. A corporation rehabilitation plan must be handed in to the Tokyo District Court by May 29th, and it would need majority go-ahead at a creditor's meeting that would be held in late June for the plan to be implemented by the end of July. Skymark is likely to decide whether to accept an airline sponsorship, either from AirAsia [AK/AXM] or All Nippon Airways' [NH/ANA] parent ANA Holdings (ANA and AirAsia bid to save Skymark.), or go without it and only endorse financial assistance from Integral Corporation plus other investment firms.

Sponsorship proposals from neither AirAsia nor ANA Holdings have been made public. However, the Malaysia-based pan-Asian LCC group is reportedly calling for a re-branding of Skymark under AirAsia, launching a new joint-venture (JV) long-haul subsidiary (a hint at AirAsia X Japan?), and a potential future merger with AirAsia Japan (Mk II), which is currently preparing to launch operations from Chubu Centrair by the end of this year (New AirAsia Japan's first Airbus A320 due in July.). It would also mediate talks with Airbus to reduce Skymark's debt. Meanwhile, ANA Holdings' plan reportedly calls for reducing Skymark's fleet to around 20 aircraft, implementing extensive code-sharing, joint ticket sales, joint fuel purchases, joint crew training, and aligning its network to complement that of ANA's, virtually transforming Skymark into a feeder carrier for Japan's largest carrier.

Source: Nikkei Shimbun, March 20th. (in Japanese)

Friday, March 20, 2015

JAL resumes Kansai – Los Angeles.

On March 20th, Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] inaugurated daily Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] – Los Angeles [LAX/KLAX] service using 186-seat (42 business and 144 economy) Boeing 787-8s, resuming the route after an eight-year hiatus (JAL reveals Winter 2014/2015 international plans.). The inaugural outbound flight JL060 departed Kansai at 1520, carrying 184 passengers (including one child), eight flight attendants, and three pilots. Passengers received a handkerchief, candies, message cards, and a flight certificate.

JAL staff see off their inaugural flight from Kansai to Los Angeles. Boeing 787-8 JA823J was assigned. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

"We used Jumbo Jets on the route until 2006, when high fuel prices forced us to suspend it. We had received strong voices from the local business community to resume the route, and now we are in a position to do that. It's another new step forward for JAL. We hope to contribute to the Kansai region's (Greater Osaka) economy," said Yoshiharu Ueki, President of JAL, who was also on board the flight. "The number of tourists to Japan is increasing, and we also hope to tap into that market from Los Angeles, along with the market for business travel," Mr. Ueki added.

Flight Schedule:
Kansai – Los Angeles NEW 1 daily with 787-8.
JL060 KIX 1520 – 0920 LAX 788 Daily *Mar/20 - 28.
JL060 KIX 1730 – 1150 LAX 788 Daily *Mar/29 - Jun/30, Oct/1 - 24.
JL060 KIX 1730 – 1220 LAX 788 Daily *Jul/1 - Sep/30.
JL069 LAX 1120 – 1550(+1) KIX 788 Daily *Mar/20-28.
JL069 LAX 1350 – 1820(+1) KIX 788 Daily *Mar/29 - Jun/30, Oct/1 - 24. 
JL069 LAX 1410 – 1820(+1) KIX 788 Daily *Jul/1 - Sep/30.

JAL formerly operated 747-400s on the route from September 1994, when Greater Osaka's new international gateway on the artificial island opened, to September 2006. 448-seat-configured machines were deployed in the final days. Taiwan's EVA Airways [BR/EVA] also flew the route until October 2009. Los Angeles is home to the world's largest Japanese population outside Japan, and the new round-trip complements JAL's existing daily flight from Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA]. Passengers will also be able to make onward connections beyond Los Angeles on joint-venture (JV) and Oneworld partner American Airlines [AA/AAL] to 37 destinations in the U.S.A.

Keiichi Ando, President of New Kansai International Airport Company (NKIAC), which operates both airports at Kansai and Osaka/Itami [ITM/RJOO], said "After Los Angeles, we want to push for London (JAL to resume Kansai to London and Los Angeles in 2015.). But Los Angeles needs to become successful for that to happen," adding "We will support the route in any way possible, including providing landing fee discounts and promoting the service to local businesses." Meanwhile, Mr. Ueki replied "We understand there is a call for London, but we must prepare well for that," adding "Compared to Los Angeles, the London market is smaller. If we are sure we can make both ends meet, we will consider it."

Japan's flag carrier flew the Kansai – London/Heathrow [LHR/EGLL] route until March 2009. The new Los Angeles service adds to JAL's modest international network from Kansai that includes Bangkok/Suvarnabhumi [BKK/VTBS], Honolulu [HNL/PHNL], Seoul/Gimpo [GMP/RKSS] (to be suspended from March 29th), Shanghai/Pudong [PVG/ZSPD], and Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP].

Source: Aviation Wire, March 20th. (in Japanese)
Source: FlightLiner, March 20th. (in Japanese)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Skymark terminates all Airbus A330 leases.

Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] has apparently decided to permanently dispose of their Airbus A330s, the entire fleet of which was grounded (Skymark Airbus A330 operates last revenue flight.) effective February 1st, only three days after filing for bankruptcy protection (Skymark to file for bankruptcy.). According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, lease contracts for all 10 A330s ordered were terminated by March 13th. A total of seven were to be leased from Intrepid Aviation, of which four had been delivered, and three from CIT Aerospace, of which one had been delivered.

Airbus A330-343E JA330A taxies at Haneda in November 2014. All five A330s that have been delivered to Japan remain parked at Tokyo's downtown airport. Its all-premium layout without any in-flight entertainment has made it difficult to find new operators, but costs for reconfiguring would probably be included in the compensation the two lessors would be seeking. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Japan's embattled third largest carrier only took delivery of their first pair of A330s a year ago on February 28th, 2014 (Skymark Airlines' first two Airbus A330s delivered.). Powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 772B-60 engines, the European wide-bodied twin-jets boasted a generous seven-abreast (2-3-2) 271-seat all-premium layout. After delaying service entry four times or by almost three months (Skymark delays Airbus A330 launch again; now June 14th.) due to certification issues, it finally inaugurated service on June 14th (Skymark Airlines inaugurates Airbus A330 service.).

However, as Skymark dumped capacity on trunk routes from Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT], they often had to keep the price of the A330s' premium seats to below that of even rivals' economy fares to fill the new airplanes; the more they flew the A330, the more they hemorrhaged. So effective February 1st, the fleet was standardized on the 177-seat all-economy Boeing 737-800s once again. Thanks to the A330 grounding as well as several frequency cuts (Skymark to cut 15% of flights, ground all Airbus A330s.), Skymark's system-wide load factor for February was 68.6%, up from 55.1% in January.

The bankrupt airline is currently running on financial aid provided by investment fund Integral Corporation, and they together are in the process of choosing an airline sponsor as well as two or three non-airline partners. AirAsia [AK/AXM] and ANA Holdings, parent of All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA], are the only two airline firms that have submitted comprehensive proposals (ANA and AirAsia bid to save Skymark.). Concerning the A330, the Malaysia-based LCC group had suggested reconfiguring the A330 in a high-density layout and placing them on a different operating certificate for international routes, while ANA's plan had called for disposal.

Skymark estimated its total liabilities at 71 billion JPY, not including the 700 million USD in penalties Airbus is seeking for the cancellation of the A380 order (Skymark hopes to settle Airbus A380 penalty in October.). The premature termination of the A330 lease contract will likely have lessors Intrepid Aviation and CIT Aerospace seek compensation as well. All creditors have until March 18th to submit the figure Skymark owes to each of them, and the cash-strapped airline will probably make its final selection of sponsors only after that.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, March 10th. (in Japanese)
Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, March 15th. (in Japanese)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Peach plans Sendai hub by Summer 2017.

On March 9th, Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] announced that they would establish their fourth hub at Sendai [SDJ/RJSS] in the northeastern prefecture of Miyagi by Summer 2017. Aircraft along with maintenance crews would be based there, and the growing LCC would add both domestic and regional international destinations. It currently flies three daily round-trips to Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB], their home base.

Airbus A320-214 JA804P at Sendai. Peach started serving Sendai in April 2013, becoming the first new airline to serve the airport after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 devastated the region. Local communities are being rebuilt but still far from finished, and Tohoku still remains one of Japan's poorest rural areas. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

"Making Sendai a hub has been our desire ever since starting up in 2012. We are delighted to be able to build a hub at Sendai, our fourth after Kansai, Naha, and Narita. We hope to contribute to the Tohoku (northeastern Japan) region by bringing in tourists not only from other parts of Japan but also from Asian cities. By bringing in low fares, we could increase the number of those who fly as well as the number of exchanges," said CEO Shinichi Inoue.

Japan's so far most successful LCC is on expansion mode. Their Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH] hub, just launched in July last year (Peach launches Naha hub; but Naha – Ishigaki axed.), will see Seoul/Incheon [ICN/RKSI] (Peach announces Okinawa – Seoul.) being added from September while Bangkok/Don Mueang [DMK/VTBD] is in the works (Peach mulls Okinawa – Bangkok.). Incheon would be the fifth nonstop city after Kansai, Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP], Fukuoka [FUK/RJFF], and Hong Kong [HKG/VHHH] (Peach commences Okinawa – Hong Kong.).

Meanwhile, Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] was designated their third hub (Peach confirms Narita hub; adds Fukuoka and Sapporo.) only last month, with Fukuoka and Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC] to be added on March 29th. The Chiba airport thus becomes Japan's first to host a hub for all four LCCs, though Peach has so far opted against moving into Narita's new LCC Terminal, dubbed Terminal 3, which is slated to open on April 8th.

Source: Kahoku Shimpo, March 7th. (in Japanese)
Source: Peach Aviation, March 9th. (in Japanese)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Skymark downsizes Ibaraki from September.

On March 4th, Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] announced they would downsize their Ibaraki [IBR/RJAH] focus city, along with the closure of Yonago [YGJ/RJOH] (Skymark decides to close Yonago, keep Ibaraki.), effective September 1st. Frequency to both Fukuoka [FUK/RJFF] and Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC] would be reduced to just one daily each, while the through-fare to Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH] via Kobe [UKB/RJBE] would be scrapped.

Boeing 737-8FZ(WL) JA737U lands at Haneda in the late afternoon. Its fleet of 27 Boeing narrow-body jets will be reduced by one aircraft this year. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

The bankrupt carrier (Skymark to file for bankruptcy.) will also stop offering a through-fare from Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] to Nagasaki [NGS/RJFU] via Kobe, necessitating passengers to buy tickets for each leg separately. On the other hand, Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG] – New Chitose and Kobe – Naha would see a round-trip added, increasing frequency to three daily, respectively.

Flight Increases/Reductions effective September 1st:
Ibaraki – Fukuoka from 2 to 1 daily.
Ibaraki – New Chitose from 2 to 1 daily.
Kobe – Naha from 2 to 3 daily.
Chubu Centrair – New Chitose from 2 to 3 daily.
Yonago – Kobe to be suspended.
Yonago – Naha to be suspended.

The embattled airline is currently running on financial aid provided by investment fund Integral Corporation, and they together are in the process of choosing an airline sponsor as well as two or three non-airline partners. AirAsia [AK/AXM] and ANA Holdings, parent of All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA], are the only two airline firms that have submitted comprehensive proposals (ANA and AirAsia bid to save Skymark.).

However, Representative Chairman Takashi Ide said "Our balance sheet looks much better after we standardized on Boeing 737s (Skymark Airbus A330 operates last revenue flight.)," adding "Which airline sponsor we select will depend on how much new value the partnership could bring, and not just increased revenue or cost cuts. We are talking with both parties for details." Mr. Ide also hinted it may opt to team up with only financial firms. The figure of Skymark's total liabilities would be calculated after March 18th, which is the deadline for creditors, including aircraft lessors as well as Airbus (Skymark's Airbus A380 order in jeopardy.), to report how much the airline owes them. Skymark would probably only make a decision after that.

Source: Asahi Shimbun, March 3rd. (in Japanese)
Source: Skymark Airlines, March 4th. (in Japanese)
Source: Nikkei Shimbun, March 4th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, March 4th. (in Japanese)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Peach announces Okinawa – Seoul.

On March 5th, Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] announced that they will launch Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH] – Seoul/Incheon [ICN/RKSI] on September 4th, as they gradually expand their second hub located in the Ryukyu islands. The new service will be operated daily using 180-seat Airbus A320-200s. Meanwhile, the Naha – Fukuoka [FUK/RJFF] route will be increased to double-daily on the same day. 

Specially-themed Airbus A320-214 JA804P Violetta RUNE entered service on March 4th. The decals, in collaboration with girls' magazine Violetta and the late artist Rune Naito's RUNE GIRL, will be worn by another two aircraft until the end of 2015. (Photo: Peach)

Fares for the new flights will go on sale on March 9th at 1500 JST. A one-way Happy Peach fare, the basic ticket which only includes a 10-kilogram carry-on baggage allowance, for Naha – Incheon will start from 5,980 JPY, not including taxes and a processing fee. The same basic fare for Naha – Fukuoka will start from 4,290 JPY.

Flight Schedule:
Naha – Fukuoka increase from 1 to 2 daily with A320-200. (Mar/29 - Oct/24)
MM282 OKA 0815 – 0955 FUK 320 Daily *NEW from Sep/4.
MM288 OKA 1750 – 1930 FUK 320 Daily
MM283 FUK 1025 – 1205 OKA 320 Daily *NEW from Sep/4.
MM289 FUK 2015 – 2155 OKA 320 Daily

Naha – Seoul/Incheon NEW daily with A320-200. (Sep/4 - Oct/24)
MM905 OKA 1305 – 1515 ICN 320 Daily
MM906 ICN 1555 – 1805 OKA 320 Daily

Peach already serves Incheon three times daily from Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB]. From their Okinawa hub, the growing LCC currently serves Fukuoka, Hong Kong [HKG/VHHH] (Peach commences Okinawa – Hong Kong.), Kansai, and Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP], with Incheon to become its fifth nonstop destination. Launched in July 2014, Naha was selected by Peach with ambitions to use it as a scissors hub (Peach launches Naha hub; but Naha – Ishigaki axed.) to funnel passengers between the main islands of Japan and Southeast Asia. 

"From Naha, we eventually want to fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore," CEO Shinichi Inoue said in February. For their first link to Southeast Asia, earlier reports pointed out to a launch as early as this summer, with the destination widely expected to be Thailand. Peach is already discussing with Thai airport authorities about Naha – Bangkok/Don Mueang [DMK/VTBD] (Peach mulls Okinawa – Bangkok.).

Source: Peach Aviation, March 5th. (in Japanese)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Skymark decides to close Yonago, keep Ibaraki.

Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] confirmed that its Yonago [YGJ/RJOH] focus city would be closed down after operating its last flights on August 31st. The bankrupt carrier (Skymark to file for bankruptcy.) notified the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) on February 27th that they would suspend its single daily services to Kobe [UKB/RJBE] and Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH], its last two remaining destinations from the airport in Tottori prefecture.

Boeing 737-8HX JA737P is being prepared for its next flight at Ibaraki. Being the sole domestic carrier at the airport, Skymark has confirmed it will stay. Ibaraki is Japan's first LCC-tailored airport, boasting operating fees 40% lower than the other two main airports serving the Greater Tokyo region. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Yonago was a new destination only launched on December 20th, 2013 as a focus city, boasting five routes covering Kobe, Naha, Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC], Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT], and Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] at peak time last summer. However, as Skymark's financial situation quickly deteriorated (Skymark braces for 13.7 billion JPY loss in FY2014.), New Chitose along with both airports serving Tokyo were axed effective October 27th, 2014. Load factor for January was 42.9% for Yonago – Kobe and 39.3% for Yonago – Naha.

Japan's third largest carrier is also considering closing down its Sendai [SDJ/RJSS] focus city as well (Skymark mulls Yonago pull-out and Sendai cuts.). All flights to Fukuoka [FUK/RJFF] and New Chitose will be dropped effective March 30th, after it reduced flights on February 1st (Skymark to cut 15% of flights, ground all Airbus A330s.), relegating it to a spoke city. Kobe will remain the only destination, but load factors for that route have also hovered around 30-40%, so an entire withdrawal is probably only a matter of time.

Meanwhile, they confirmed that it would keep flying from Ibaraki [IBR/RJAH], citing low operating costs. "We will continue to use it as one our main focus cities; we may even add more flights," said Representative Chairman Takashi Ide. Skymark is the only domestic carrier serving the airport originally designed with LCCs in mind. It is also the third airport in the Kanto (Greater Tokyo) region after Haneda and Narita, mainly catering to those living in the north and northeast of Japan's largest metropolitan area.

The cash-strapped airline is currently running on financial aid provided by investment fund Integral Corporation, and they together are in the process of selecting an airline sponsor as well as a few non-airline partners. AirAsia [AK/AXM] and ANA Holdings, parent of All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA], are the only two airline firms that have submitted comprehensive proposals (ANA and AirAsia bid to save Skymark.), however, Integral's Director Nobuo Sayama recently interestingly said "We will examine all proposals, but we don't necessarily need to make a selection," adding "We may choose to do it 100% ourselves."

Skymark's shares were de-listed on March 1st, and it will perform a 100% capital reduction, turning all stocks into scrap pieces of paper. Former President and CEO Shinichi Nishikubo, who owned 30% of Skymark when he was at helm, had decreased its shareholding to 9.78% by February 6th, and that figure was down to zero by February 19th.

Source: Nikkei Shimbun, February 26th. (in Japanese)
Source: Skymark Airlines, February 27th. (in Japanese)
Source: NHK, February 27th. (in Japanese)
Source: Mainichi Shimbun, February 28th. (in Japanese)
Source: Nihonkai Shimbun, February 28th. (in Japanese)