Tuesday, February 16, 2016

New AirAsia Japan reveals China, SE Asia, USA ambitions.

On February 15th, AirAsia Japan's (Mk II) [DJ] new Chairman Takashi Ide revealed that the delayed LCC is now preparing to start flying in Summer 2016, hopefully in July or August. Speaking at a public symposium calling for a second runway at its Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG] hub (AirAsia Japan confirms Spring 2016 launch from Nagoya.), the former Skymark Airlines [BC/SKY] executive who only joined in December (AirAsia Japan CEO to quit, ex-Skymark executives coming.) also disclosed plans for China, hubs at Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP] and Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA], plus Airbus A330s for trans-Pacific and Hawaii routes. It will also continue to push for Chubu Centrair's proposed new LCC terminal, which could open as early as FY2018 and handle up to 5 million passengers annually.

Airbus A320-216(SL) JA01DJ, which has not flown since delivery (New AirAsia Japan receives first Airbus A320.), is now being reactivated for a test flight on February 16th. AirAsia Japan (Mk II) plans to commence crew training on its own aircraft on March 15th as their first group of trainees return from Malaysia. Their second aircraft will be deferred to April, while the Mika Ninagawa-designed special livery will be adorned by their third. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

The reincarnation of AirAsia's [AK/AXM] Japanese unit was originally planned to take off in June 2015 (AirAsia Japan is officially reborn; first flight June 2015.), but was postponed to April 2016 after finally receiving an Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) in October (New AirAsia Japan receives AOC; takeoff in April 2016.), only to be delayed again after the surprising management change (New AirAsia Japan delays service entry to July 2016.). Its shareholders have agreed to together inject 3 billion JPY this month. "Former management was essentially trying to build a Japanese branch of AirAsia. But we need to be a Japanese airline in the first place," said Mr. Ide, explaining "An AOC (in Japan) only means the business structure is in place. We cannot fly yet because we have not met all the JCAB criteria to become airworthy." Mr. Ide also added "AirAsia is fun and bright, but that is outside of Japan. People are very conservative here, and it is difficult to carve out a space against ANA and JAL. I learned a lot about that (through Skymark)."

Mr. Ide reiterated that AirAsia Japan's main target would be Japan's inbound market (outbound is shrinking due to aging and a declining population). As already reported, it will start with a fleet of two 180-seat Airbus A320 flying from Chubu Centrair to Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC], Sendai [SDJ/RJSS], and Taipei, with each city receiving double-daily frequencies. It plans to carry 150,000 passengers by 2016 year-end. In 2017, its fleet will be increased to six aircraft mostly to fuel China expansion, and Mr. Ide named Beijing/Capital [PEK/ZBAA] or Tianjin [TSN/ZBTJ], Guam [GUM/PGUM], Hong Kong [HKG/VHHH] or Macau [MFM/VMMC], Seoul/Incheon [ICN/RKSI], and Shanghai/Pudong [PVG/ZSPD] or Wuxi [WUX/ZSWX]. Mr. Ide said it will not hesitate to fly to less-congested airports that have attractive incentives for newcomers. First profit is forecasted for FY2017.

For 2018, AirAsia Japan will add three A320s for a total of nine, plus two A330s. The new Airbus wide-body aircraft will be used to open up Chubu Centrair – Singapore/Changi [SIN/WSSS], while the additional A320s will be based at a new hub at Narita and fly to Beijing or Tianjin, Hong Kong or Macau, New Chitose, Taipei, and Shanghai or Wuxi, all destinations which would already be served from Chubu Centrair by then. FY2018 is projected to see total revenue increasing to 25 billion JPY with a profit margin of 7%. During 2019, the fleet will be increased to a dozen A320s and four A330s; the A320s will be based at their third hub at Taipei and start Vietnam and Singapore using fifth freedom rights, while additional A330s will be used to launch Honolulu [HNL/PHNL] from both Chubu Centrair and Narita. FY2019 is expected to see revenue amounting to 35 billion JPY with a profit margin of 10%.

By the end of 2020, the LCC will boast 14 A320s and six A330s. The additional A330s will be used to open up its first trans-Pacific routes to Seattle-Tacoma [SEA/KSEA], though Mr. Ide noted it could be changed to San Francisco [SFO/KSFO] depending on which U.S. partner it interlines with. Meanwhile, the A320 additions will help them connect more dots, including Taipei and Narita with Seoul. By the end of FY2020, AirAsia Japan aims to fly 30 round-trips from Chubu Centair and 10 round-trips from Narita with an average load factor of 75%, producing total revenues of 50 billion JPY and a profit margin of 15%. The LCC also plans to conduct its Initial Public Offering (IPO) during FY2020.

So the details of AirAsia's second shot at Japan have now been unveiled. The importance of China had been repeated, however, as slots at key destinations dry up, it may need to fly to secondary airports. AirAsia has brand recognition in China, but how much impact a split operation among sisters would have is unsure, though it already serves multiple airports for Tokyo with AirAsia X [D7/XAX] at Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] and Thai AirAsia X [XJ/TAX] at Narita. For Japan – Southeast Asia, Vietnam and Singapore are natural priorities, as the group doesn't have local affiliates there. Meanwhile, Malaysia and Thailand are better served by its lower-cost sisters in these respective countries. It is also noteworthy that AirAsia Japan will become the first group carrier to operate A330s alongside A320s (excluding Indonesia AirAsia X [XT/IDX], for paperwork purposes); the Airbus wide-bodies will mainly serve trans-Pacific and Hawaii markets, with feed not only from Japan (which is shrinking), but from China and Southeast Asia (which is growing).

Source: Traicy, 2016 February 15th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, 2016 February 15th. (in Japanese)
Source: Nikkei Shimbun, 2016 February 15th. (in Japanese)

*Edited/updated on 2016 February 16th.

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