Thursday, January 7, 2016

Fuji Dream mulls Chubu – Narita and international charters.

Fuji Dream Airlines [JH/FDA] will reportedly launch a base at Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG] by 2017 (Fuji Dream plans Izumo, Kitakyushu, and Chubu Centrair.) and start international charters along with Chubu Centrair – Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA], according to an interview by Chunichi Shimbun with President Yohei Suzuki. The niche regional carrier currently operates only domestic routes from its hubs at Nagoya/Komaki [NKM/RJNA], Chubu (Greater Nagoya) region's older but convenient airport near downtown, and Shizuoka [FSZ/RJNS], where it is headquartered.

Embraer ERJ170-200/STD JA08FJ Tea Green at Aomori, moments before rotation. Fuji Dream plans a fleet of a dozen E-Jets by 2018, though the Mitsubishi Regional Jet is currently being evaluated as a replacement in the long-term. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

FDA flies nine aircraft, comprised of six 84-seat Embraer ERJ170-200/STD (E175) and three 76-seat ERJ170-100 (E170), with the next E175 arriving in March 2016 and another coming one year later (Fuji Dream orders up to six more Embraer E175s.). All of its aircraft either return to Komaki or Shizuoka for the night, as most of the airports it serves have curfews, and FDA intends to take advantage of Chubu Centrair's 24-hour operation to experiment late-night or early-morning international charters to China, South Korea, and Taiwan. Other open-around-the-clock airports such as Kitakyushu [KKJ/RJFR] and Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] are also being considered as points of origin.

The Shizuoka-based airline also plans to add Chubu Centair – Narita in the daytime to cater to international connecting passengers, and they are reportedly talking with European and North American airlines (non-Star, non-Oneworld?) for a code-sharing agreement. Meanwhile, it will maintain its domestic network from Komaki, which currently boasts nine destinations including Aomori [AOJ/RJSA], Fukuoka [FUK/RJFF], Hanamaki [HNA/RJSI], Izumo [IZO/RJOC] (Fuji Dream launches Izumo and Kitakyushu.), Kochi [KCZ/RJOK], Kitakyushu, Kumamoto [KMJ/RJFT], Niigata [KIJ/RJSN], and Yamagata [GAJ/RJSC].

FDA has largely been able to gain popularity due to it being the sole carrier at Nagoya's preferred airport near downtown, where it essentially filled the void left by J-Air [XM/JLJ], which withdrew in March 2011. However, their upcoming 10th aircraft cannot be based at Komaki due to limited parking space, and further expansion at Komaki would come against the Aichi Government and local companies' desire to consolidate all flights at Chubu Centrair. A gentleman's agreement also prohibits flights over 1,000 kilometers from Komaki.

But for FDA, moving its entire operation to Chubu Centrair would not only mean it would lose Komaki's proximity advantage, but also suddenly put itself in competition with the plethora of LCCs adding services at Nagoya's premier international gateway. Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP] flies both domestic and international routes (Jetstar Japan adds Nagoya and Kansai to Taipei.), while the second AirAsia Japan [DJ] is starting services in April with a hub at Chubu Centrair (New AirAsia Japan receives AOC; takeoff in April 2016.). Overseas LCCs include Spring Airlines [9C/CQH] and V Air [ZV/VAX], while Tigerair Taiwan [IT/TTW] plans to start on January 29th. So for now, FDA's answer to Nagoya is a split hub.

Source: Chunichi Shimbun, 2015 December 23rd. (in Japanese)

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