Friday, April 15, 2016

Fuji Dream Airlines announces Shizuoka – Okadama.

On April 11th, Fuji Dream Airlines [JH/FDA] announced that they will launch Shizuoka [FSZ/RJNS] – Sapporo/Okadama [OKD/RJCO] on June 4th. The route will initially operate two days a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays using either 76-seat Embraer ERJ170-100s (E170s) or 84-seat ERJ170-200s (E175s). It will supplement the Shizuoka-headquartered niche carrier's existing five-times-weekly Shizuoka – Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC] service. Although not yet announced, the new link will likely code-share with partner Japan Airlines [JL/JAL].

Embraer ERJ170-200/STD (E175) JA05FJ arrives into snowy Aomori. Fuji Dream's fleet is comprised of seven E175s and three smaller E170s, with four more of the former on order. The Mitsubishi Regional Jet is currently being evaluated as a long-term replacement for the current E-Jets. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Fuji Dream has operated various charters from Okadama since carrying out flight testing in July 2013 to check the E170's landing and takeoff performance with the 1,500-meter runway and measure its noise footprint (Fuji Dream starts Okadama summer charter.). Hence launching scheduled flights to and from Okadama had been seen as a matter of time. It received its 10th E-Jet last month and the new service matches the arrival of their 11th in June (Fuji Dream Airlines' tenth Embraer E-Jet is Silver.).

Flight Schedule:
Shizuoka – Okadama NEW 2 weekly with E170/175. (Jun/4-)
JH173 FSZ 1130 – 1315 OKD E70 Tue/Sat
JH174 OKD 1345 – 1535 FSZ E70 Tue/Sat

Fuji Dream's entry into Okadama with a frequency supplementing their service to New Chitose along with identical times shows how it is largely an experiment to see which of the airports passengers actually prefer, and whether there are prospects it could replicate how it successfully created a hub at Nagoya/Komaki [NKM/RJNA], the Chubu (Greater Nagoya) region's older but preferred airport located closer to downtown, which was largely replaced by Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG]. President Yohei Suzuki had said "Sapporo can support a dual airport strategy with two respective roles."

Local regional airline Hokkaido Air System [HC/NTH], which was made a subsidiary of JAL once again in October 2014 (JAL raises Hokkaido Air System stake to 51%.), is based at Okadama and is the only scheduled carrier using the airport. Although much smaller than its bigger sister New Chitose, which is located 40 kilometers away from the Hokkaido capital, Okadama is compact and is only six kilometers from downtown Sapporo. Its proximity has been less felt as travel to New Chitose from center city has efficiently been reduced to a 40-minute train ride, while reaching Okadama requires transferring from subway to bus resulting in a 25-minute travel time from Sapporo Station.

As major airports become crowded, Fuji Dream is striving to be a niche carrier flying into smaller but more convenient secondary airports of major cities, taking advantage of smaller E-Jets. Launching a hub at Chubu Centrair is still being evaluated, as parking space at Komaki becomes scarce (Fuji Dream mulls Chubu – Narita and international charters.), but that may be risky as the larger airport serving the Chubu region is well-served by All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA] and a growing number of LCCs, including AirAsia Japan (Mk II) [DJ], which is launching with a hub there this summer (New AirAsia Japan delays service entry to July 2016.). Proposed Komaki – Okadama could bear fruit if Shizuoka – Okadama proves successful and an agreement could be reached with partner JAL, which already operates Chubu Centrair – New Chitose.   

Source: Fuji Dream Airlines, 2016 April 11th. (in Japanese)

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