Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Vanilla Air eyes China, Southeast Asia, and Okinawa hub.

On January 29th, Vanilla Air's [JW/VNL] owner ANA Holdings, parent of Japan's largest carrier All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA], announced that it would increase the Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA]-based LCC's capacity by 218% as measured by available seat kilometers (ASKs) by the end of FY2020. It aims to become the number one LCC at Narita, going head to head with rival Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP], and also partly competing with sister Peach Aviation [MM/APJ], minority-owned by ANA.

Airbus A320-216(SL) JA06VA taxies for departure from Narita. Vanilla Air plans to add up to five aircraft in FY2016, with another dozen to be inducted by FY2020. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Vanilla will add more leisure-oriented markets, including cities which have yet to be served by the ANA Group, and enter the Chinese market to tap into Japan's largest source of inbound tourists. It also envisions setting up its second hub at Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH], and designating Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP] a strategic focus city, which would inevitably increase overlap with Peach (Peach Aviation grows Okinawa; Narita and more Taipei.). Guam, Saipan, Philippines, along with Southeast Asia are on the horizon, though Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] – Taipei (Vanilla Air to add Kansai – Taipei in Summer 2016.) is expected to become the next route.

Its current fleet of eight 180-seat Airbus A320s will be grown to 25 by FY2020, and the re-engined A320neo is under consideration. Acquisition of A330 wide-body aircraft will also continue to be evaluated, but it would be necessary if Vanilla wishes to fly to Southeast Asia nonstop from Narita both ways without payload penalties. "A single-type operation is the LCC formula, but we're also evaluating a plan with wide-bodies," said ANA Holdings President Shinya Katanozaka, adding "Asian LCCs are evolving, and they're entering longer routes. We may operate two types side-by-side, or even a complete shift to wide-body-only operations in the long-term is also a possibility."

Some sources say there is already an undisclosed done deal for ANA to lease a few A330s from CIT Aerospace for deployment at Vanilla. Pleasing CIT, Skymark Airlines' [BC/SKY] fourth largest creditor after Intrepid Aviation, Airbus, and Rolls-Royce, was also necessary for ANA to win support to sponsor Japan's bankrupt third largest airline (Bye-bye Skymark, Hello ANA Airbus A380?). Meanwhile, Vanilla has become quiet on any plans to fly to Hawaii after ANA finally released plans to fly Skymark's displaced A380s to the popular resort destination. With ANA's A380s planned to accommodate 500 to 600 passengers, they would virtually be dumping seats in the market overnight, and an entry by Vanilla would result in excessive overcapacity.

Source: ANA Holdings, 2016 January 29th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, 2016 February 3rd. (in Japanese)

*Edited/updated on 2016 February 3rd. 

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