Monday, April 6, 2015

Skymark hints at new brand: SKY bee?

Bankrupt Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] (Skymark to file for bankruptcy.) confirmed that it will change its name and livery, and revamp their product along with staff uniforms. The re-branding could take place as early as late July, which is when their corporation rehabilitation plan would be implemented, provided it wins majority approval from creditors (Skymark's total debts skyrocket to 300 billion JPY.) at a meeting to be held in late June. The plan must be submitted to the Tokyo District Court, where it filed for bankruptcy protection, by May 29th.

Boeing 737-82Y(WL) JA737Z arrives at Ishigaki as flight BC567 from Naha on March 28th as Skymark's last flight to the southern Okinawa airport. Along with Miyako, it was dropped as part of their restructuring. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

"We want to think from zero," said Nobuo Sayama, President of Integral Corporation, in a weekend news program, revealing SKY bee is one of their top candidates for the new identity. Together with advertising agencies Sunny Side Up and TYO, the investment fund, which has pledged 9 billion JPY to keep the cash-strapped airline flying while it reorganizes (Skymark to cut 15% of flights, ground all Airbus A330s.), disclosed a logo that uses a hornet. On April 6th, Skymark's President Masakazu Arimori confirmed "We have come a long way, so we want to renew the airline. We can't tell if it will be SKY bee, but SKY will remain part of it."

Meanwhile, the selection of sponsors to help Skymark out of bankruptcy (Skymark seeks investor airline; scraps ANA & JAL dual tie-up.) is taking much longer than expected. "If there is an airline who is sincerely willing to help rebuild Skymark, we would like to work with them," said Mr. Sayama, implying their view of both bidders AirAsia [AK/AXM] and ANA Holdings, parent of All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] (ANA and AirAsia bid to save Skymark.), as having no genuine interest in Skymark except for the lucrative 36 slot-pairs Japan's third largest carrier controls at Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT]. "If our employees don't feel comfortable about the sponsor, we won't get along," reiterating that Integral is prepared to become its sole sponsor, taking full control of Skymark's rehabilitation.

On March 30th, ANA Holdings' new President Shinya Katanozaka said "We can't let a competitor slip away with the slots," adding "That would be detrimental to our business." So that Skymark wouldn't need to relinquish its precious slots, ANA would keep its investment under 20%, but "Partnering without shareholding is out of question," said Mr. Katanozaka, adding "We need to be at the center of their restructuring." The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT), which regulates Haneda, has notified they would limit any ANA investment to five years, in an effort to keep Skymark as Japan's third force, but ANA's chief opposes "It took over a decade to get rid of AIRDO's [HD/ADO] (d.b.a. Air Do) and Skynet Asia Airways' [6J/SNJ] (d.b.a. Solaseed Air) debts, so in that event we will urge MLIT to lift that."

AirAsia Group's CEO Tony Fernandes is also expected to visit Tokyo soon to pitch his proposal to the embattled airline. According to people close to the matter, the chief of Asia's largest LCC group will present details of a plan to help Skymark settle penalties charged by Airbus and aircraft lessors for the canceled A380s (Skymark's Airbus A380 order in jeopardy.) and A330s (Skymark terminates all Airbus A330 leases.) as well as cooperate on operations, and discuss a potential future investment. "Our plan guarantees Skymark's independence," said the source. Meanwhile, a Skymark spokesperson said "We haven't talked in detail, so at this point we can't say if AirAsia's plan is acceptable or not." Mr. Fernandes is also busy with AirAsia Japan (Mk II), which is currently preparing to launch operations from Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG] by the end of this year (New AirAsia Japan eyes launch by year-end 2015.).

However, with Skymark starting to tweak its product, including overhauling its brand, it may actually decide to go without any airline sponsors after all. Check-in baggage allowance has been increased from 15 to 20 kilograms, while stricter cosmetics and hairstyle rules for flight attendants have been implemented, which at least don't seem to go in the direction of a LCC. But opting not to name any airline sponsors is likely to have a negative effect on their negotiation power with creditors in reducing their huge debt (Skymark's total debts skyrocket to 300 billion JPY.). Stay tuned.

Source: Reuters Japan, March 31st. (in Japanese)
Source: Jiji Press, April 1st. (in Japanese)
Source: Mainichi Shimbun, April 4th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, April 6th. (in Japanese) 
Source: Nikkei Shimbun, April 7th. (in Japanese)

*Edited/updated on April 7th, 2015.

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