Monday, August 31, 2015

JAL is returning to Dallas-Fort Worth in November.

On August 31st, Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] announced that they will revive nonstop Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] – Dallas-Fort Worth [DFW/KDFW] service on November 30th, ending a 14-year hiatus. It will initially be operated four times weekly, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, and will be increased to daily from Spring 2016. 161-seat (38 business, 35 premium economy, and 88 economy class) Sky Suite Boeing 787-8s will be assigned to the new link.

Boeing 787-8 JA837J, which was the first Dreamliner to boast the Sky Suite product, rests between flights at Narita. JAL currently operates 22 Dash 8s and a single Dash 9, with another three and 19 on order, respectively. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

President Yoshiharu Ueki had revealed earlier this year that resuming Dallas was in the works, especially after Toyota decided to move its North American headquarters to the metropolis by 2017 (JAL contemplating Dallas-Fort Worth.). Joint-venture (JV) and Oneworld partner American Airlines [AA/AAL] has an extensive network to Latin America including Mexico, and Dallas is also a strategic transfer point. Rival All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] only launched Houston/George Bush [IAH/KIAH] on June 12th (ANA launches Narita – Houston.) to tap into that market too, through JV and Star Alliance partner United Airlines [UA/UAL].

Flight Schedule:
Narita – Dallas-Fort Worth NEW 4 weekly with 787-8. (2015/Nov/30 - 2016/Mar/26)
JL012 NRT 1055 – 0720 DFW 788 Mo/We/Fr/Su
JL011 DFW 1145 – 1625(+1) NRT 788 Mo/We/Fr/Su

JAL's award-winning Sky Suite product boasts one of the most generous seat densities, and the 787 is the newest aircraft to receive the treatment (JAL's Sky Suite 787 makes debut.), which includes lie-flat business class seats with direct aisle access from every seat, an all-new premium economy cabin, and a comfortable eight-abreast (2-4-2) layout for economy, along with in-flight wireless internet connection dubbed JAL Sky Wi-Fi.

Japan's now second largest carrier served Dallas until October 7th, 2001, when it dropped its daily 747-400 service from Narita in the aftermath of the September 11th atrocities. Partner American currently operates two daily flights both ways using 777-200ERs, and JAL's round-trip will also be part of the JV and carry their partner's code as well. The Texas city will become JAL's eighth gateway in the U.S. and the ninth trans-Pacific route after Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] – Los Angeles [LAX/KLAX], which was also reinstated on March 20th (JAL resumes Kansai – Los Angeles.).

Source: Japan Airlines, 2015 August 31st. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, 2015 August 31st. (in Japanese)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Peach Aviation commences Kansai – Miyazaki.

On August 28th, Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] started serving Miyazaki [KMI/RJFM] with a daily evening flight to and from Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB], becoming the first LCC to land in the last prefecture in Kyushu yet to be served by one (Peach loads Kansai – Miyazaki.). The route used to be operated by All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] until March 2007. The growing LCC flies into three other Kyushu points: Fukuoka [FUK/RJFF], Kagoshima [KOJ/RJFK], and Nagasaki [NGS/RJFU].

Airbus A320-214 JA805P departs Miyazaki for the first return leg to Kansai. Peach currently operates 16 aircraft with the next to arrive in November. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Inaugural flight MM189, flown by Airbus A320-214 JA805P, departed 19 minutes late due to traffic congestion at Kansai, and arrived into Miyazaki 14 minutes late at 1944 JST. It was fully booked, however, the final passenger count was 169 including a child. The first return leg, flight MM190, departed at 2020, 20 minutes behind schedule, with a load of 172 passengers, including one infant, and arrived back at Kansai at 2121. Passengers were given Peach-branded beach sandals along with luggage tags.

Flight Schedule:
Kansai – Miyazaki NEW daily with A320-200.
MM189 KIX 1825 – 1930 KMI 320 Daily
MM190 KMI 2000 – 2105 KIX 320 Daily

Governor of Miyazaki Shunji Kouno, who greeted the first arrival, enthused "It's a flight we've been waiting for. With the new link, our ties to the Kansai (Greater Osaka) region in terms of economy, tourism, and trade only grows." Meanwhile, Shinichi Inoue, CEO of Peach commented "Miyazaki and Kansai have a deep relationship. We want to tap into that demand," adding "We're targeting the VFR (visiting friends and relatives) market as well. We encourage everyone to fly with us as if you ride a train."

Fares range from 4,590 JPY for a Happy Peach ticket, which only includes a 10-kilogram carry-on baggage allowance, and go up to 20,990 JPY for last-minute, flexible and inclusive tickets. A special fare starting at 2,290 JPY will be offered until August 30th to help promote the new link. Although Peach is the sole carrier connecting the airport with Kansai, ANA flies six times daily to Osaka/Itami [ITM/RJOO] while Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] also flies five times daily to the convenient downtown Osaka airport.

Source: Aviation Wire, 2015 August 28th. (in Japanese)
Source: Traicy, 2015 August 29th. (in Japanese)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

First Flying DHC-6-400 skids off runway at Aguni.

On August 28th, First Flying's [DAK] flight DAK101 operated by Viking Air DHC-6-400 Twin Otter JA201D veered off the runway to the right and crashed into the airport perimeter fence after touching down at Aguni [AGJ/RORA] around 0854 JST. All 14 on board, including three crew, evacuated safely, and some were treated for minor injuries at the island sole clinic. This aircraft was delivered in March this year and had only entered service earlier this month (First Flying bids farewell to Islander, welcomes Twin Otter.).

Viking Air DHC-6-400 Twin Otter JA201D seen after crashing into the perimeter fence after skidding off the runway upon landing at Aguni. (Photo: Aguni Airport)

Visibility was reportedly good at 10 kilometers and winds were mild as well at the time of the accident. "Touch down was like any other, but when I deployed the brakes, I felt something unusual as if the tires got locked. Then the aircraft became uncontrollable and skidded off the runway," according to the first officer who was at the controls. The 62-year-old pilot had logged 16,000 total hours, however, the flight was the final part of a 65-hour training on the new DHC-6-400 which would have promoted him to captain. A 57-year-old pilot served as captain on the flight. Crew training on revenue flights are not uncommon.

The right landing gear was torn off and the forward section seems to have significant damage. The aircraft is only six months old. (Photo: Aguni Airport)

Officials of Japan Transport Safety Board (JCAB), a division of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT), arrived at the scene on the following day today on August 29th and designated it an accident. The nose and forward section of the fuselage have been significantly damaged, along with engine number two, while the right landing has been torn off. "It appears the aircraft still had speed when it crashed into the fence. We will tow the aircraft out of the area to examine it, while checking the flight records to investigate how and why it happened," said a JTSB official.

Aguni, which has a single 800-meter runway, will be closed until further notice. First Flying is the only airline serving the island with three-times-daily service connecting it with Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH], the prefecture's capital located 60 kilometers southeast. The remote airport opened for flights in 1978. For the 750 inhabitants, a daily 130-minute ferry ride would become the only means of transport to and from Naha for the time being. First Flying will suspend the 20-minute route until the cause is identified, while it has also confirmed that the launch of new routes from Ishigaki [ISG/ROIG] to Hateruma [HTR/RORH] and Tarama [TRA/RORT], planned for December 1st, would be postponed.

Source: NHK, 2015 August 28th. (in Japanese)
Source: NHK, 2015 August 29th. (in Japanese)
Source: Okinawa Times, 2015 August 29th. (in Japanese)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Amakusa Airlines' ATR42-600 arrives in Japan.

On August 21st, Amakusa Airlines' [AHX] brand-new ATR42-600 registered JA01AM arrived at Kumamoto [KMJ/RJFT] on delivery (Amakusa Airlines chooses ATR42-600.). The Amakusa [AXJ/RJDA]-based commuter airline will replace its sole 39-seat Bombardier DHC-8-103 JA81MX Mizoka with the new 48-seat aircraft, which becomes the first of the type to be operated in Japan. It had been delivered to Nordic Aviation Capital on lease to Amakusa Airlines on August 13th.

The eight on board the delivery flight pose in front of ATR42-600 JA01AM New Mizoka at Kumamoto upon completing the long journey. (Photo: Amakusa Airlines)

The long delivery flight started from Toulouse/Blagnac [TLS/LFBO] on August 16th, making stops at Paphos [PFO/LCPH], Bahrain [BAH/OBBI], Muscat [MCT/OOMS], Malé [MLE/VRMM], Colombo/Bandaranaike [CMB/VCBI], Bangkok/Don Mueang [DMK/VTBD], and Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP], before arriving at Kumamoto on August 21st. As JA01AM approached the Kyushu airport, it performed a low-pass in front of a crowd of enthusiasts who gathered to welcome the new turboprop, before touching down on Runway 25. A total of eight officials including pilots from ATR and Amakusa staff were on board the delivery flight.

ATR42-600 JA01AM New Mizoka at Toulouse prior to delivery. (Photo: Amakusa Airlines)

The tiny single-aircraft airline currently flies Amakusa – Fukuoka [FUK/RJFF] three times daily and Amakusa – Kumamoto – Osaka/Itami [ITM/RJOO] daily, though the latter was suspended on August 23rd to allow its pilots to start transitioning to the ATR42. Crew training is expected to start by the end of August, and the brand-new aircraft is planned to enter service sometime in January 2016. The sole DHC-8 will be retired then, retaining a single-aircraft fleet.

Amakusa Airlines is owned 53.31% by Kumamoto Prefecture, 22.92% by the City of Amakusa, 2.73% by the City of Kamiamakusa, 1.2% by Reihoku Town, among others. The small niche airline code-shares with Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] on all flights (Amakusa Airlines announces code-share with JAL.) and outsources ground handling to its partner at all of its destinations except for Amakusa, its home base. JAL affiliate Japan Air Commuter [3X/JAC] will become the second ATR42 operator in Japan in 2017 when it starts to take delivery of eight ordered to replace its Saab SF340Bs (Japan Air Commuter orders up to 23 ATR42-600s.).

Source: Amakusa Airlines @ Facebook.
Source: Aviation Wire, 2015 August 21st. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Spring Airlines Japan to drop Takamatsu.

On August 21st, Spring Airlines Japan [IJ/SJO] announced that they will suspend Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] – Takamatsu [TAK/RJOT] effective October 25th, the start of the Winter 2015/2016 timetable. The Japanese affiliate of China's largest LCC only launched revenue flights in August 2014 with three routes from their hub at Narita (Spring Airlines Japan commences operations.), and this axing would reduce that number to just two: Hiroshima [HIJ/RJOA] and Saga [HSG/RJFS].

Boeing 737-86N(WL) JA02GR at Takamatsu. (Photo: Spring Airlines Japan)

When the fledgling LCC initially launched operations on August 1st last year, Takamatsu was served daily from Narita, competing head to head with rival Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP], which flies the route up to twice daily. However, load factors turned out to be well below the 80% target set by the carrier, and Spring Japan slashed frequency to four times weekly on March 29th (Spring Japan cuts flights but hopeful for China in 2015.). The days matched Spring Airlines' [9C/CQH] service to Takamatsu from Shanghai/Pudong [PVG/ZSPD], which commands a nearly 95% load factor, to help raise brand awareness and lure Chinese travelers.

The young LCC blames the lack of brand recognition; this is very important in Japan where brand affinity counts so much, and all the more on secondary routes. Even for Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] and Jetstar Japan, simply offering lower fares hasn't been enough to persuade travelers to choose a non-ANA/JAL carrier on domestic flights from airports that are farther away from the city and have mostly catered for international services, such as Narita and Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB]. Thus Spring Japan's Winter 2015/2016 timetable, at least until January 31st, 2016, would be reduced to merely three flights a day with a fleet of three 189-seat Boeing 737-800s, further hurting an already low aircraft utilization rate.

For now, it will maintain twice-daily service to Hiroshima and daily to Saga. The former sees limited direct competition from All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] franchise carrier IBEX Airlines [FW/IBX], which mostly carries ANA's international – domestic transfer traffic on their daily Bombardier CRJ-700NG service, while the latter route sees none. However, the airline is reportedly preparing to launch Kansai and Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC] as early as February, shifting its focus to high-demand (and highly competitive) trunk routes from secondary markets (Spring Airlines Japan plans Kansai, Sapporo, and China.). Its first international destinations, likely Chongqing [CKG/ZUCK] and Wuhan [WUH/ZHHH], are also planned before the end of 2015 (Spring Japan considering Chongqing and Wuhan.).

Source: Spring Airlines Japan, 2015 August 21st. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, 2015 August 21st. (in Japanese)

Monday, August 24, 2015

First Flying bids farewell to Islander, welcomes Twin Otter.

On August 2nd, First Flying [DAK] introduced the 19-seat Viking Air DHC-6-400 Twin Otter on the Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH] – Aguni [AGJ/RORA] route. The newly-delivered aircraft replaced the nine-seat Pilatus Britten-Norman BN-2B-20 Islander, which operated its last revenue flight on July 31st, on their three-times-daily 25-minute hop connecting Naha and the remote island. This leaves Kagoshima [KOJ/RJFK]-based New Japan Aviation [NJA] as the last remaining airline flying the Islander in Japan.

Viking/de Havilland Canada DHC-6-400 Twin Otter JA201D is adorned with colorful decals of the mascots of Aguni, Ishigaki, Taketomi (Hateruma), and Tarama, which are First Flying's current and soon-to-be-served destinations. (Photo: First Flying)

First Flying originally inherited two Islanders from Ryukyu Air Commuter [RAC] in 2009 to take over the Naha – Aguni link as well as launch Naha – Okinoerabu [OKE/RJKB] – Tokunoshima [TKN/RJKN] in June that year. However, just over a year later in September 2010, the tiny carrier announced it could no longer afford to continue the routes after heavy losses. Termination was averted after the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT), and later Okinawa prefecture, stepped in to subsidize the essential air links.

A farewell banner was placed on the walls at Aguni Airport's tiny terminal to commemorate the retirement of the Pilatus Britten-Norman BN-2B Islander. (Photo: First Flying)

Meanwhile, First Flying is now preparing to reinstate two island-hopping routes from Ishigaki [ISG/ROIG] on December 1st: Hateruma [HTR/RORH] and Tarama [TRA/RORT]. The former hasn't seen scheduled air service since November 2008, while the latter has manged to retain a link to Miyako [MMY/ROMY] with Ryukyu Air Commuter. The brand-new DHC-6-400s will be deployed on these routes as well.

Pilatus Britten-Norman BN-2B-20 Islander JA5325 at Aguni. First Flying operated three examples. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

The small island-hopping niche airline is the Japanese launch customer for the revamped new-generation variant of the venerable STOL (Short TakeOff and Landing) aircraft originally developed by de Havilland Canada back in 1964 (First Flying orders two Viking Air DHC-6-400 Twin Otters.). The two aircraft arrived in March 26th, and had been used on proving flights and crew training mostly at Kagoshima.

After purchasing all type certificates from Bombardier Aerospace for all out-of-production models from the DHC-1 to the DHC-7, Viking Air started offering the DHC-6-400 in July 2006. The revamped STOL turboprop boasts more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34/35 engines, Honeywell Primus Apex fully-integrated avionics, deletion of the AC electrical system and beta backup system, modernization of the electrical and lighting system, and composites for non-load-bearing structures such as doors.

Source: Japan General Aviation Service, 2015 March 31st. (in Japanese)
Source: First Flying @ Facebook.
Source: Yaeyama Mainichi Shimbun, 2015 August 19th. (in Japanese)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

ANA axes Oshima and transfers two routes to Air Do.

On August 19th, All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] announced that they will cancel their daily Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] – Oshima [OIM/RJTO] service effective October 25th, the beginning of the Winter 2015/2016 schedule. It will also transfer Hakodate [HKD/RJCH] – Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG] and Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC] – Hiroshima [HIJ/RJOA], both flown once daily, to AIRDO [HD/ADO] (d.b.a. Air Do).

Boeing 737-781(WL) JA18AN prepares for takeoff from New Chitose near Sapporo. Two more 737-700s will be transferred to Air Do, while the Hokkaido carrier's remaining two 737-500s will be returned to ANA. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

ANA has served Oshima, an island governed by Tokyo and located only 94 kilometers (58 miles) from Haneda, since 1955. After the 56-seat Bombardier DHC-8-300Q was retired on March 30th, 2014 (ANA quietly retires the Bombardier DHC-8-300Q), Japan's largest carrier had been deploying 120-seat (eight Premium Class and 112 economy) Boeing 737-700, since then the smallest aircraft in their fleet. However, the up-gauge resulted in an unsustainable load factor of just 14.1% for FY2014, and 10.4% for the recent six months. ANA's withdrawal will leave New Central Airservice [CUK] as the sole airline serving Oshima, from Tokyo/Chofu [RJTF] using 19-seat Dornier Do 228s (New Central Airservice receives 2nd Dornier 228NG.).

Meanwhile, the two Hokkaido routes had been announced earlier by Air Do as new routes, along with new three-times-daily New Chitose – Chubu Centrair (Air Do is coming to Hiroshima and Nagoya.). ANA is also cutting two of its six round-trips on the latter link. This announcement had been expected, as ANA Holdings, parent of ANA, holds 13.61% of Air Do, and implements code-sharing and joint ticket sales throughout its network, joint fuel purchases, joint crew training, and coordinates flights to complement that of ANA's. When Air Do cannot make a route work, it is transferred back to ANA (ANA takes over Air Do's unprofitable secondary routes.). 

Together with ANA partner Development Bank of Japan's (DBJ) 32.49% share, ANA virtually controls 46.1% of the Hokkaido-based start-up that originally challenged the legacy carriers. Air Do has adopted ANA's reservation system, giving its former rival access to all of their operational and financial data, and hence helping to relegate themselves to a feeder carrier for Japan's largest airline. ANA is trying to replicate this with Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] (Bye-bye Skymark, Hello ANA Airbus A380?), as it did with Skynet Asia Airways [6J/SNJ] (d.b.a. Solaseed Air) and Star Flyer [7G/SFJ] as well.

Source: All Nippon Airways, 2015 August 19th. (in Japanese)
Source: All Nippon Airways, 2015 August 19th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, August 20th. (in Japanese)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Jetstar Japan cuts Nagoya – Kumamoto and Kansai – Oita.

On August 19th, Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP] announced that they would suspend Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG] – Kumamoto [KMJ/RJFT] and Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] – Oita [OIT/RJFO] effective October 25th, the beginning of the Winter 2015/2016 timetable. These routes will only have survived just over a year as they were launched on October 26th (Jetstar Japan starts three routes from Kumamoto.) and July 11th (Jetstar Japan to start Kansai – Oita in October.), 2014, respectively. They also become the first terminations since the Japanese affiliate of the Australia-based LCC launched operations on July 3rd, 2012.

Airbus A320-232(SL) JA06JJ at Chubu Centrair. After Kumamoto is axed, Jetstar Japan will continue to serve Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Okinawa/Naha, and Sapporo/New Chitose from the airport serving Nagoya. While it has denied developing it into a hub for now, AirAsia Japan (Mk II) will launch in Spring 2016 with a base here. (Photo: Jetstar Japan)

"There weren't enough passengers and we didn't see demand growing as much as we had expected," said a spokesperson from the Narita-based LCC, adding "We are currently reviewing our entire network." Kansai – Oita has been served daily, while the Chubu Centrair – Kumamoto link was initially started with double-daily but decreased to once-daily from the Summer 2015 schedule. Meanwhile, they will continue to serve Oita from Narita, and Kumamoto from both Narita and Kansai (Jetstar Japan launches Kansai hub.).

Jetstar Japan surpassed 10 millionth passengers on August 5th, beating rival Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] by one day, making it the fastest LCC to achieve that milestone as it launched operations four months later than the Osaka-headquartered rival. As they start adjusting its domestic network, it will slowly shift focus to the international arena; Hong Kong [HKG/VHHH] from both Narita (Jetstar Japan starts Narita – Hong Kong.) and Kansai (Jetstar Japan goes international with Kansai – Hong Kong.) will go up to double-daily, and a new international destination is expected to be revealed soon.

On the financial side, profitability has yet to come; another 5 billion JPY is reportedly being prepared for injection together by Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] and Qantas Airways [QF/QFA]. The two biggest shareholders pumped in 11 billion JPY in October 2013 and another 7 billion JPY in October 2014 (Jetstar Japan to receive 11 billion JPY from JAL and Qantas.). "2014 was our bottom. Results have improved, and though I can't say when, we expect to be in the black soon," said Masaru Kataoka, Jetstar Japan's Chairman, adding "Now we are looking to expand into high-demand markets in North Asia and Southeast Asia."

Source: Jetstar Japan, 2015 August 5th. (in Japanese) 
Source: Aviation Wire, 2015 August 8th. (in Japanese)
Source: Jetstar Japan, 2015 August 19th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, 2015 August 19th. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

ANA announces Boeing 777 and 767 Star Wars Jets.

On August 18th, All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] revealed two more Star Wars-themed special livery aircraft, in addition to Boeing 787-9 JA873A R2-D2 ANA JET (ANA reveals Star Wars Project.), the design of which was disclosed in April. 777-381/ER JA789A will be adorned with BB-8 to become BB-8 ANA JET and ply intercontinental skies while 767-381/ER JA604A will be painted as STAR WARS ANA JET and fly domestic routes. 

An impression of Boeing 777-381/ER JA789A BB-8 ANA JET. ANA has 22 777-300ERs in service, with six more on order. 20 777-9X have also been ordered. (Image: ANA)

BB-8 ANA JET will enter service in March 2016 and be deployed on mostly North American flights, while STAR WARS ANA JET will inaugurate service in November 2015. Meanwhile, ANA also announced that R2-D2 ANA JET will enter revenue service on October 18th as flight NH116 from Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] to Vancouver [YVR/CYVR]. It will also fly to Beijing/Capital [PEK/ZBAA], Jakarta/Soekarno-Hatta [CGK/WIII], Munich [MUC/EDDM], Paris/Charles de Gaulle [CDG/LFPG], San Jose [SJC/KSJC], and Sydney/Kingsford Smith [SYD/YSSY] (ANA announces Haneda – Sydney.).

Boeing 767-381/ER JA604A STAR WARS ANA JET. Formerly an international-configured example, this aircraft now plies domestic skies in a 270-seat (10 Premium Class and 260 economy) layout. (Image: ANA)

One day prior to inaugurating service, R2-D2 ANA JET will be deployed on a scenic flight from Haneda. 39 winners from a photo contest on ANA's website that will end on September 18th will be invited, and all members of ANA Mileage Club (AMC) are also eligible to apply for a scarce 25 groups of two made available. "When we announced the Star Wars-themed 787, its popularity was overwhelming. So we opted for two more. The jets will start roaming the world's skies in October. I hope it would be loved by all," commented Osamu Shinobe, President of ANA.

ANA will also add all six previous episodes from the series to its in-flight entertainment line-up between November this year and January 2016; episodes four to six will be aired from November to December, while episodes one to three will be shown from December to January. The five-year Star Wars Project in collaboration with The Walt Disney Company (Japan) will take advantage of the unveiling of The Force Awakens, the series' latest episode to be released in December, to bolster ANA's brand-awareness in the international arena. Japan's largest carrier is gradually shifting focus to the international market, where demand for inbound visitors to Japan and Asia – North America travel is growing, while the domestic market remains lucrative but is shrinking.

Source: All Nippon Airways, 2015 August 18th. (in Japanese)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Japan Airlines JL123 crash remembered 30 years on.

August 12th marked the 30th year since Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] flight JL123, an ordinary domestic flight from Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] bound for Osaka/Itami [ITM/RJOO], crashed into Mount Osutaka in Ueno Village, Gunma. It claimed the lives of all but four of 509 passengers and 15 crew members aboard, making it the deadliest aviation accident in Japan and the deadliest single-airliner accident in history. Boeing 747SR-46 JA8119 was the aircraft involved.

JAL President Yoshiharu Ueki paid tribute at the crash site memorial, swearing safety would never be compromised again. Mr. Ueki has participated in the ceremony every year since taking office in 2012. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Last evening on August 11th, bereaved families and relatives floated lanterns on nearby Kanno River to honor those who perished and pray for aviation safety. On the following day today, hundreds of mourners hiked up the mountain to reach the crash site. Among them was Yoshiharu Ueki, JAL's current President. "I expressed my deepest condolence and apology to the 520 who died. I would like to apologize to the families and relatives for 30 years of suffering and sadness," said Mr. Ueki, adding "Lives come first. No compromise nor excuse is acceptable when it comes to safety. That is engrained in the hearts of the 32,000 employees at JAL."

A moment of silence was observed by participants at a ceremony that was held at the memorial facility near the foot of Mount Osutaka at 1856 JST, the exact time the ill-fated aircraft ended its short voyage. It was attended by 252 family members and relatives of the vitctims, as well as 104 officials from the local government, regulator Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB), and JAL, including Mr. Ueki, Chairman Masaru Onishi, and Vice President Nobuhiro Sato.

The doomed 747 that departed Haneda at 1812 on August 12th, 1985 quickly ran into trouble when a loud bang was heard followed by decompression. JA8119 had been involved in a tailstrike incident at Itami seven years earlier as flight JL115, and faulty repair of the damaged rear pressure bulkhead was determined as the cause of it not withstanding pressurization on the 12,319th flight after the fix. When the bulkhead gave way, the resulting explosive decompression ruptured the lines of all four hydraulic systems and ejected the vertical stabilizer. With the aircraft's flight controls disabled, the 747 became uncontrollable. Desperate efforts by the crew to tame the plane were in vain, and the aircraft crashed into Mount Osutaka approximately 30 minutes later.

Source: Aviation Wire, August 12th. (in Japanese)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Peach Aviation inaugurates Haneda – Taipei.

On August 8th, Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] commenced Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] – Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP], becoming the first Japanese LCC to serve the capital's preferred but heavily-regulated downtown airport (Peach expands Taipei; Haneda and more Kansai.). The service will initially operate six days a week with 180-seat Airbus A320s, but will increase to daily from October 25th. The growing LCC has also added a third Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] – Taipei/Taoyuan round-trip.

Airbus A320-214 JA806P taxies at Haneda for departure on Peach's inaugural flight to Taoyuan Airport near Taipei. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Affected by a typhoon that engulfed Taiwan, departure of inaugural flight MM1029 was delayed 10 hours and 45 minutes. Reservation was full, however, 30 passengers opted for a refund because of the flight disruption, and the load was 150. The flight, flown by A320-214 JA806P, departed Haneda at 1640 JST. "If you live near Haneda, you can park your bicycle here and go on a day trip to Taiwan. For those from Taiwan, you can spend more time at a bar in Tokyo," said Shinichi Inoue, CEO of Peach.

Flight Schedule:
Kansai – Taipei/Taoyuan increase from 14 to 20 weekly. (21 weekly from Oct/25)
MM023 KIX 0840 – 1030 TPE 320 Daily *Departs 10 min late on Mo.
MM027 KIX 1605 – 1755 TPE 320 Daily
MM029 KIX 2105 – 2255 TPE 320 Tu/We/Th/Fr/Sa/Su *No operation on Oct/16 & 23.
MM022 TPE 0915 – 1255 KIX 320 Mo/We/Th/Fr/Sa/Su *No operation on Oct/17 & 24.
MM024 TPE 1105 – 1445 KIX 320 Daily *Departs 10 min late on Mo.
MM028 TPE 1830 – 2210 KIX 320 Daily

Haneda – Taipei/Taoyuan NEW six weekly with A320-200. (Daily from Oct/25)
MM1029 HND 0555 – 0830 TPE 320 Mo/We/Th/Fr/Sa/Su *No operation on Oct/17 & 24.
MM1028 TPE 0030 – 0445 HND 320 Mo/We/Th/Fr/Sa/Su *No operation on Oct/17 & 24.

Peach's new link uses Haneda's under-utilized midnight slot-pairs allocated for international services. Under normal operations, the aircraft for the Haneda route arrives into Taipei as the third flight from Kansai late in the evening, and turns around for a red-eye flight to Haneda. After a brief 70-minute stay, it returns to Taipei as the outbound flight from Tokyo, in time for the first flight of the day from Taipei back to Kansai. Fares range from 7,680 JPY for a Happy Peach ticket, which only includes a 10-kilogram carry-on baggage allowance, to 53,580 JPY for last-minute, flexible and inclusive tickets.

The Kansai-based carrier became the first Japanese LCC to serve Haneda and the third overall after AirAsia X [D7/XAX], Hong Kong Express Airways [UO/HKE] (d.b.a. HK Express), and Spring Airlines [9C/CQH]. Tigerair Taiwan [IT/TTW] and Zest Airways [Z2/EZD] (d.b.a AirAsia Zest) have plans as well.

Peach currently operates eight international and 12 domestic routes from its hubs at Kansai and Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH] (Peach launches Naha hub; but Naha – Ishigaki axed.), and carried its 10 millionth passenger on August 6th. It will add Kansai – Miyazaki [KMI/RJFM] on August 28th (Peach loads Kansai – Miyazaki.) followed by Naha – Seoul/Incheon [ICN/RKSI] on September 4th (Peach announces Okinawa – Seoul.). Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] (Peach starts Narita to Fukuoka and Sapporo.) and Sendai [SDJ/RJSS] (Peach plans Sendai hub by Summer 2017.) have already been announced as their third and fourth future bases, and China and Thailand are on the horizon (Peach mulls Okinawa – Bangkok.).

Source: Aviation Wire, August 8th. (in Japanese)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Bye-bye Skymark, hello ANA Airbus A380?

ANA Holdings, parent of All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA], has won the bid to lead bankrupt Skymark Airlines' [BC/SKY] rehabilitation process (Creditors choose ANA/Skymark proposal over Delta/Intrepid.). It was a landslide victory for Japan's already largest carrier, garnering 78% votes in terms of the number of creditors and 60.25% in terms of the amount of Skymark's liabilities, fulfilling both conditions.

But at least the latter was widely speculated to be a Delta/Intrepid victory (Intrepid picks Delta to sponsor Skymark.), as creditors Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and CIT Aerospace, accounting for 29%, 16%, and 14%, respectively (Skymark's total debts skyrocket to 300 billion JPY.), were all opposed to ANA involvement at least until very recently (Airbus and Intrepid to reject ANA/Skymark tie-up.). With Intrepid claiming 38%, just one of the three creditors supporting the Delta Air Lines [DL/DAL]-led scheme would have given them a win in terms of proportions of liabilities, prompting another round of vote within two-months. So how did ANA win the support of the three key players in the last few days?

Airbus A380-841 F-WWSL/JA380A at Toulouse. Two of Skymark's have been completed while the third has partially been built. ANA's taking up of the A380s was necessary for them to win support from Airbus and Rolls-Royce, and keep true competition out of bread-and-butter Haneda for as long as possible by keeping Skymark under its control. ANA has deep pockets, but can they fly the A380 profitably? How long can protectionism prevail? (Photo: Airbus)

During the last days of July, "ANA made a promise with Airbus to place a significant future order, carefully couched so as not to trigger a disclosure requirement," said an ANA official close to the matter who asked not to be named. That order includes acquiring three displaced A380s initially ordered by Japan's embattled third largest airline (Skymark's Airbus A380 order in jeopardy.), and taking options for two more. Two aircraft have been completed and are currently stored at Toulouse/Blagnac [TLS/LFBO], with a third partially finished. Rolls-Royce Trent 900s power the super-jumbos, and hence Rolls-Royce's defect to ANA as well.

Airbus initially supported ANA as they had earlier talked positively about inducting Skymark's A380s, but then sided with Delta/Intrepid after ANA scrapped the talks a few weeks later saying plans had changed. Intrepid also supported ANA in the first place, as a non-binding Letter of Intent (LoI) was signed for ANA to lease Skymark's A330s (Skymark terminates all Airbus A330 leases.). But ANA also canceled it just a few weeks later, causing outrage at Intrepid and prompting the U.S.-based aircraft lessor to come up with their own rehabilitation plan for Skymark that eventually lured Delta as its sponsor. So this time around, ANA couldn't have gained Airbus and Rolls-Royce's support without a binding agreement. According to the same source, ANA will release plans for the A380 "when the time is appropriate."

The next question is why did CIT Aerospace support ANA? Delta is a big customer for CIT, while ANA has no record of having business with them. What is known from multiple sources is that ANA pledged to lease aircraft from them in the near future. Rumors say that Japan's largest carrier talked of an idea to lease some, if not all three of CIT's A330s that were destined for Skymark, and place them in service with ANA's wholly-owned subsidiary LCC Vanilla Air [JW/VNL] for Hawaii services. However, how much reliability this rumor has is unsure, as at least one of CIT's ex-Skymark A330s seems to have found a new operator in Spain with Air Europa [UX/AEA].

Boeing 737-8HX(WL) JA73NA. Now how much independence Skymark would be able to retain is up to Integral. But adopting ANA's reservation system is a double-edged sword. Skymark's stable income would be assured by ANA, but they would forever become a slave of Japan's largest carrier, as with Air Do, Solaseed Air, and Star Flyer. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

For Skymark, it would be a very bitter end to its challenge against the ANA/JAL duopoly (Skymark gives in to ANA; Japan reverts to duopoly.). Paper-wise, ANA will only control 16.5% with Integral Corporation holding 50.1% and UDS Airlines Investment 33.4%. However, UDS is a new investment firm jointly owned by Development Bank of Japan (DBJ) and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking, both loyal ANA partners. Six executives will sit on the board and Integral will select three, but ANA two, and UDS one; Integral's President Nobuo Sayama will take the Chairman's seat but DBJ's former Managing Director Masahiko Ichie, a strong ANA ally, will become President.

And the centerpiece of the ANA/Skymark plan is an extensive code-share. Skymark's current reservations system developed by former hands-on President and CEO Shinichi Nishikubo cannot handle any code-shares, and Skymark will most likely adopt ANA's system. An official of the regulating Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) has quoted it as "an addictive poison," as it allows ANA to access Skymark's entire ticket sales data, including pricing policy and reservation rates. But for Skymark, developing an all-new system would be too costly. ANA's other de facto puppet carriers AIRDO [HD/ADO] (d.b.a. Air Do), Skynet Asia Airways [6J/SNJ] (d.b.a. Solaseed Air), and Star Flyer [7G/SFJ] all share ANA's system. Skymark's network will gradually be aligned to complement that of ANA's, essentially stopping short of a takeover.

Regulator MLIT knows competition is necessary. But for now, the ruling Liberal Democrat Party (LDP) sits on top of them. The LDP is said to have pressured ANA to accept A380s so that Skymark remain in Japanese (ANA) hands. In return, the regime is rumored to have unofficially promised to give ANA the lion's share of new slot-pairs at Haneda when the next expansion comes before the 2020 Olympics/Paralympics. A fifth runway is far-fetched, and the MLIT is currently talking with local authorities to allow aircraft to overfly densely-populated business and residential areas, which could create up to 50 more slot-pairs per day. Conservative LDP supports ANA in order to dilute JAL's remarkable comeback as it was bailed out when the opposing Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) was at helm. Foreign involvement is out of question, at least at Haneda. The LDP is determined to protect ANA, and to a lesser extent JAL.

Welcome to Japan. Here we go back in time with the two incumbents ANA/JAL and its affiliates controlling 100% of the Haneda market and 97% of the entire domestic market. And at the preferred downtown Tokyo airport, ANA would already command the lion's share of domestic slots, having direct/indirect control over 60% when combined with de facto subsidiaries Air Do, Skymark, Solaseed Air, and Star Flyer, with JAL accounting for the remaining 40%. Sadly for the ordinary flyer, the incumbent government prefers a closed market, benefiting selected powers at the expense of the interest of the flying public and broader industry evolution. The government should stop toying with aviation politics.

Source: Nikkei Shimbun, August 6th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, August 6th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, August 6th. (in Japanese)
Source: Nikkei Shimbun, August 6th. (in Japanese)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Creditors choose ANA/Skymark proposal over Delta/Intrepid.

On August 5th, the creditors of bankrupt Skymark Airlines' [BC/SKY] (Skymark to file for bankruptcy.) approved a rehabilitation plan backed by ANA Holdings, parent of All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA], against the Delta Air Lines [DL/DAL]-sponsored proposal submitted by largest creditor Intrepid Aviation (Intrepid picks Delta to sponsor Skymark.). A plan was required to win approval of a majority of debt holders, both in terms of the proportion of liabilities and the number of creditors, and ANA/Skymark garnered 60.25% for the former and 135.5 out of 174 votes for the latter. Delta/Intrepid gained 38.13% and 37.5, respectively, while 25 creditors abstained. Japan is reverting to ANA/JAL duopoly, where they would control a whopping 97% of the domestic market together with its affiliates (ANA/JAL directly account for 79%).

Dark days ahead for the flying public? Seen taxiing at Fukuoka, Boeing 737-8HX(WL) JA73NH left Skymark in January 2015 and now flies with Jeju Air as HL8034. ANA would like to trim Skymark's fleet from the current 27 to around 20, as part of a process to transform the former rival into a de facto subsidiary, as with Air Do, Solaseed Air, and Star Flyer. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

With U.S.-based lessor Intrepid claiming 38% of Skymark's debt, the decisions of Airbus (Skymark's Airbus A380 order in jeopardy.), Rolls-Royce, and CIT Aerospace, accounting for 29%, 16%, and 14%, respectively (Skymark's total debts skyrocket to 300 billion JPY.), had been crucial. The Delta/Intrepid proposal was poised to win in terms of the proportion of liabilities as the three had opposed ANA involvement (Airbus and Intrepid to reject ANA/Skymark tie-up.). However, reportedly, in the final days before the vote, ANA etched in a deal with Airbus and Rolls-Royce to acquire some, if not all of Skymark's canceled A380s, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, and also promised CIT Aerospace that they would lease aircraft from them in the future, prompting the three to support ANA. For the number of creditors, it was ANA's to win from the first place, as most of the 197 creditors are smaller domestic companies having business ties with ANA.

Intrepid had initially welcomed ANA's involvement when Japan's largest carrier reportedly talked positively about inducting Skymark's canceled A330s (Skymark terminates all Airbus A330 leases.), however, outraged after the lessor learned ANA would not take them up, it decided to submit its own proposal (Skymark and Intrepid submit rivaling revival plans.). In June, the Tokyo District Court approved both plans for voting (Skymark/ANA and Intrepid both given go-ahead by court.). Intrepid's blueprint had originally lacked concreteness without an airline sponsor, but it selected Delta in July, and came out to boast a higher repayment rate at 5.5% for debts over 1 million JPY, made possible by Intrepid voluntarily withdrawing 30 billion JPY of debts Skymark owes them, provided the deal went through.

At the center of Skymark's bankruptcy was always their 36 coveted slot-pairs, or 8%, at regulated Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT]. A bitter battle that started out with JAL luring Skymark for an extensive code-share (Skymark in talks with JAL for broad tie-up.) and rebuffed by ANA and the government (Skymark forced to seek ANA & JAL dual tie-up.) in the first round, former partners ANA and Malaysia-based pan-Asian LCC AirAsia [AK/AXM] (AirAsia admits Skymark bid defeat, Japan unit delay to 2016.) fighting in the second, and world's largest airline Delta going against ANA in the third has ended in Skymark falling into the hands of Japan's biggest airline, putting a period to Skymark's challenge against the ANA/JAL duopoly. Founded in 1996, they were Japan's first child of deregulation and also the last to remain independent (Skymark gives in to ANA; Japan reverts to duopoly.).

Airbus A380-841 F-WWSL/JA380A at Toulouse. Two of Skymark's six ordered (and canceled) have been completed and are stored. ANA's taking up of the A380s was necessary for them to win support from Airbus and Rolls-Royce, and keep true competition out of bread-and-butter Haneda for as long as possible by keeping Skymark under its control. ANA has deep pockets, but can they fly the A380 profitably? How long can protectionism prevail? (Photo: Airbus)

Skymark's new owners will together inject 18 billion JPY into the embattled carrier, and a debt-equity swap would leave Integral Corporation holding 50.1%, UDS Airlines Investment 33.4%, and ANA Holdings 16.5%. UDS is a new investment firm jointly owned by Development Bank of Japan (DBJ) and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking, however, as both are loyal ANA partners, ANA would de facto control 49.9%. Six executives will sit on the board, and Integral will select three, ANA two, and UDS one; Integral's President Nobuo Sayama will take the Chairman's seat while DBJ's former Managing Director Masahiko Ichie will become President. The ANA/Skymark plan is expected to include extensive code-sharing, joint ticket sales, joint fuel purchases, joint crew training, and gradually aligning Skymark's network to complement that of ANA's, essentially stopping short of a takeover, replicating the cases with AIRDO [HD/ADO] (d.b.a. Air Do), Skynet Asia Airways [6J/SNJ] (d.b.a. Solaseed Air), and Star Flyer [7G/SFJ]. A new corporate identity is also likely (Skymark hints at new brand: SKY bee?).

Now, all but one of Japan's mainline carriers would be associated with either ANA or Japan Airlines [JL/JAL]; Air Do, Skymark, Solaseed Air, and Star Flyer along with LCCs Peach Aviation [MM/APJ] and Vanilla Air [JW/VNL] are all in the ANA flock, while Fuji Dream Airlines [JH/FDA], Japan Transocean Air [NU/JTA], and Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP] have JAL influence. Independent of the two incumbents is fledgling Spring Airlines Japan [IJ/SJO] (Spring Airlines Japan plans Kansai, Sapporo, and China.), which will soon be joined by AirAsia Japan (Mk II) (AirAsia Japan confirms Spring 2016 launch from Nagoya.) in Spring 2016. For Haneda's slots, ANA/JAL would control 100%; JAL holds 40% (184.5) and ANA 37.4% (172.5), however, when the slots of de facto subsidiaries Air Do, Skymark, Solaseed Air, and Star Flyer are combined, ANA's figure jumps to a whopping 60%.

Source: Skymark Airlines, August 5th. (in Japanese)
Source: Reuters Japan, August 5th. (in Japanese)
Source: Nikkei Shimbun, August 5th. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

ANA strengthens Haneda – China with Guangzhou.

On August 4th, All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] revealed plans to expand its China network from Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] with new daily services to Guangzhou [CAN/ZGGG] and Shanghai/Pudong [PVG/ZSPD] along with a second daily flight to Beijing/Capital [PEK/ZBAA] effective October 25th. 214-seat (35 business and 179 economy class) Boeing 767-300ERs will be deployed on the new flights.

Boeing 767-381 JA8368 at Haneda. Older 767-300ERs are gradually being converted into a domestic layout to replace the oldest 767-300s, with four examples having received the reconfiguration so far. ANA's 767 fleet is comprised of 25 -300ERs, eight -300ER(BCF)s, and 16 -300s. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

In May, authorities of China and Japan had agreed to allocate two round-trips to each side for Haneda – Guangzhou services. China Southern Airlines [CZ/CSN], based in China's third most populated city, is also preparing to launch the route though no official announcement has yet been made.

Flight Schedule:
Tokyo/Haneda – Beijing/Capital increase from 1 to 2 daily.
NH961 HND 0925 – 1235 PEK 772 Daily
NH963 HND 1725 – 2035 PEK 76W/763 Daily *NEW from Oct/25.
NH964 PEK 0830 – 1245 HND 76W/763 Daily *NEW from Oct/26.
NH962 PEK 1545 – 2000  HND 772 Daily

Tokyo/Haneda – Guangzhou NEW daily with 767-300ER.
NH923 HND 0925 – 1350 CAN 76W/763 Daily *From Oct/25.
NH924 CAN 1550 – 2000 HND 76W/763 Daily *From Oct/25.

Tokyo/Haneda – Shanghai/Pudong NEW daily with 767-300ER.
NH971 HND 1830 – 2110 PVG 76W/763 Daily *From Oct/25.
NH972 PVG 0820 – 1205 HND 76W/763 Daily *From Oct/26.

Meanwhile, Japan's largest carrier will reduce frequency on the Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] – Beijing route from double to single daily from the same date, though Narita – Guangzhou will continue to be flown daily and Narita – Shanghai/Pudong three times daily. From the preferred downtown Tokyo airport at Haneda, ANA currently operates to Beijing and Shanghai/Hongqiao [SHA/ZSSS] in mainland China as well as Hong Kong [HKG/VHHH].

Source: All Nippon Airways, August 4th. (in Japanese)