Thursday, February 11, 2016

New AirAsia Japan delays service entry to July 2016.

On February 10th, AirAsia Japan (Mk II) [DJ] officially admitted that it would be unable to meet its target operations launch in April 2016 (New AirAsia Japan receives AOC; takeoff in April 2016.). The company explained it was due to "a number of factors." This becomes the second delay (AirAsia admits Skymark bid defeat, Japan unit delay to 2016.), and they will now work to start flying in July, which would put it more than one year behind their original time schedule (New AirAsia Japan takeoff slipping to Summer 2016?).

Airbus A320-216(SL) JA02DJ/F-WWBO (msn 6972), AirAsia Japan's second aircraft, will be delivered in late February, though its first A320 has yet to fly since delivery last October. A special livery designed by Mika Ninagawa was planned for the second example, but seems to have been postponed to a later airframe. Flight training was originally slated to begin in November last year, but is now planned by March. (Photo: Tobias Gudat)

Japan's fifth LCC had already been set back with a 10-month delay (AirAsia Japan is officially reborn; first flight June 2015.), largely due to shifting strategy to focus more on the international market rather than domestic, difficulties in recruiting pilots and setting up a maintenance scheme, and much-longer-than-anticipated preparation to apply for an Air Operator's Certificate (AOC). It finally obtained one on October 6th, 2015 and announced that it would launch in April with flights from Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG] to Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC], Sendai [SDJ/RJSS], and Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP] (New AirAsia Japan receives AOC; takeoff in April 2016.). However, until now their first Airbus A320 has not flown once since delivery four months ago (New AirAsia Japan receives first Airbus A320.).

Dissatisfied with slow progress, effective December 1st, the LCC group replaced CEO Yoshinori Odagiri, formerly a veteran from All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] who also headed the first AirAsia Japan (Mk I) [JW/WAJ], with ex-Skymark Airlines' [BC/SKY] Chairman Takashi Ide and President Masakazu Arimori in a surprise move (Skymark relaunched with ANA sponsorship.). Mr. Ide was made AirAsia Japan's Chairman while Mr. Arimori took the place of CFO, while ex-Dell Osamu Hata was promoted to CEO (AirAsia Japan CEO to quit, ex-Skymark executives coming.). However, it must be noted that Skymark and AirAsia Japan are different; the former has been a domestic player centered around its precious slots at Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT], while the latter is based at Chubu Centrair with at least 55% of its capacity to be international.

Nonetheless, the Skymark duo have wide and deep knowledge of the domestic market and expertise in running a low-cost operation in Japan's unique economic and regulatory environment. And, the hidden agenda may be that, they along with management at AirAsia have not given up on eventually merging AirAsia Japan and Skymark, which has so far been politically impossible (Is AirAsia considering a Skymark takeover?) (ANA and AirAsia bid to save Skymark.). Skymark's new President Nobuo Sayama still maintains close relations with the duo, and Skymark's new owners Integral Corporation and ANA Holdings have agreed to re-list the airline by 2020. Meanwhile, the government has hinted liberalizing Haneda to a significant extent sometime, but not long, after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics, and AirAsia and Skymark may be quietly waiting for the appropriate time.

With the latest postponement, some media have voiced concerns over whether AirAsia Japan could really take off. However, though it may be delayed, the Japanese unit of Asia's largest LCC has so much potential it could realize and Tony Fernandes is probably serious about it. Aside from Spring Airlines Japan [IJ/SJO], AirAsia Japan is best placed among Japanese LCCs to tap into China, the single largest (and still growing) source of inbound visitors to Japan, as it already has brand-awareness with AirAsia Group carriers serving 17 Chinese cities. Furthermore, sister carrier AirAsia X [D7/XAX] (and probably Thai AirAsia X [XJ/TAX] as well when Thailand's ICAO red flag is lifted and FAA rating is returned to Category 1) is venturing into the trans-Pacific market (starting with Honolulu [HNL/PHNL]) with a stop in Japan using fifth freedom rights, and if this proves successful, it could grow not only to provide a Japan – North America operation (which is a shrinking market), but a competitive one-stop China – North America (growing market) option.

Source: Nikkei Shimbun, 2016 February 10th (in Japanese) 
Source: Travel Vision, 2016 February 10th. (in Japanese)

No comments:

Post a Comment