Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Vanilla Air announces Okinawa – Taipei.

On May 25th, Vanilla Air [JW/VNL] announced that it will commence Okinawa/Naha [OKA/ROAH] – Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP] on September 14th. An additional Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] – Naha round-trip will also be added at the same time. All flights will be operated by 180-seat Airbus A320-200s. The LCC arm of ANA Holdings continues to add more destinations from Taipei, which is set to become their second hub and the first outside Japan.

Airbus A320-214(SL) JA03VA is one of two aircraft in Vanilla Air's fleet with a non-standard white livery. When the first AirAsia Japan (Mk I) was re-launched as Vanilla Air, they did not have enough time to fully paint the aircraft before they needed it. Their original three A320s still retain the basic AirAsia interior. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Tickets went on sale on May 26th. One-way fares start from 4,590 JPY for a ticket with no baggage allowance (Simple Vanilla) and 6,590 JPY for an inclusive ticket with 20 kilograms of baggage allowance plus free seat selection (Komi-komi Vanilla).

Flight Schedule:
Naha – Taipei/Taoyuan NEW daily with A320-200.
JW189 OKA 2110 – 2145 TPE 32A/320 Mo/Tu/Th/Fr/Sa/Su *From Sep/15.
JW189 OKA 2035 – 2110 TPE 32A/320 We *From Sep/14.
JW180 TPE 0610 – 0845 OKA 32A/320 Daily *From Sep/15.

The aircraft for the outbound service will arrive from Narita into Naha flying the newly added flight, and then hop to Taipei, to turn around for their Osaka/Kansai [KIX/RJBB] link, which was only launched on April 27th (Vanilla Air adds Kansai – Taipei, plans SE Asia in 4Q2016.). The inbound leg will be part of the Kansai – Taipei – Naha – Narita routing.

Naha becomes Vanilla Air's third destination from Taipei, and it is part of their strategy to make the Taiwanese capital a scissors hub to connect Japan and Southeast Asia (Vanilla Air eyes China, Southeast Asia, and Okinawa hub.), which is similar to what part-sister Peach hopes to do at Naha (Peach launches Naha hub; but Naha – Ishigaki axed.). From Taipei, it currently flies to Narita four times daily, and plans are underway to add Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam using fifth freedom rights, as well as Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC].

Bangkok/Don Mueang [DMK/VTBD] is likely to become their first destination in Southeast Asia, and Vanilla is reportedly in talks with fellow Value Alliance (Vanilla Air joins seven LCCs to form Value Alliance.) member Nok Airlines (d.b.a. Nok Air) [DD/NOK] for a stronger partnership.

Source: Vanilla Air, 2016 May 25th. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Vanilla Air joins seven LCCs to form Value Alliance.

On May 16th, Vanilla Air [JW/VNL], together with LCCs Cebu Air (d.b.a. Cebu Pacific) [5J/CEB] including subsidiary Cebgo [DG/SRQ], Jeju Air [7C/JJA], Nok Airlines (d.b.a. Nok Air) [DD/NOK], NokScoot Airlines [XW/NCT], Scoot [TZ/SCO], Tiger Airways Australia (d.b.a. Tigerair Australia) [TT/TGW], and Tiger Airways Singapore (d.b.a. Tigerair) [TR/TGW], announced the creation of Value Alliance. The founding members currently operate a collective fleet of 176 aircraft across the Asia Pacific region and serve over 160 destinations, carrying 47 million passengers in 2015.

Airbus A320-214(SL) JA07VA arrives at Narita. Vanilla Air took delivery of its ninth A320 on April 22nd and will receive two more during FY2016, with its fleet planned to reach 25 by FY2020. New President Katsuya Goto has mentioned the possibility of the A321neoLR, which would allow non-stop flights from Japan to Southeast Asia. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

The partnership enables customers to book flights from any of the eight airlines' websites in a single transaction through technology developed by Air Black Box (ABB). Travelers will also be able to choose ancillary services including seat selection, meals, and check-in baggage for flights from different airlines in a single itinerary. ABB’s Air Connection Engine (ACE) platform has filed for NDC Certification with IATA and is expected to complete full certification soon.

However, the cooperation will be limited to enhancing sales and ticket distribution among members, at least initially, unlike the comprehensive alliances of legacy carriers such as Oneworld, Skyteam, and Star, which go far as offering mileage transfers, joint marketing, standardizing service and quality, and coordinating schedules and sharing revenues where anti-trust immunity (ATI) has been granted. At this time, Value seems to be largely an experiment to better compete with the likes of LCC groups AirAsia and Jetstar, and to a lesser extent Lion Air, which have gained network scale by having subsidiaries in multiple nations and marketing them under a single brand and website.

Value becomes only the second LCC grouping of its kind after U-FLY Alliance, which was formed in January and includes Hong Kong Express Airways (d.b.a. HK Express) [UO/HKE], Lucky Air [8L/LKE], Urumqi Air [UQ/CUH], and West Airlines (d.b.a. West Air) [PN/CHB], all HNA Group carriers. Both alliances are keen to court more members, though there are not many remaining in the region. VietJet Aviation [VJ/VJC] will likely go alone, with a strong and growing domestic home market along with a healthy aircraft orderbook. Also, the government, which controls Vietnam Airlines [VN/HVN] and indirectly owns Jetstar Pacific Airlines [BL/PIC], may not be comfortable in allowing them to forge international partnerships for now.

On another note, the exclusion of Tigerair Taiwan [IT/TTW] from Value is a further hint that its majority owner China Airlines [CI/CAL] is planning to buy Tigerair's 10% shareholding to take full control, which would likely result in the LCC re-branding and moving to a different reservations system. Also, Tigerair Taiwan competes with Scoot in the Taiwan – Singapore and Taiwan – Japan markets and with NokScoot in the Taiwan – Thailand market. However, some competition within the alliance seems inevitable as Vanilla prepares to launch Southeast Asia from a new Taipei/Taoyuan [TPE/RCTP] hub by year-end (Vanilla Air adds Kansai – Taipei, plans SE Asia in 4Q2016.).

Source: Vanilla Air, 2016 May 16th. (in Japanese)

Monday, May 16, 2016

New AirAsia Japan launch slips to 4Q2016 at earliest.

AirAsia Japan (Mk II) [DJ] has officially admitted that they will miss its target launch in Summer 2016 (New AirAsia Japan reveals China, SE Asia, USA ambitions.), and a new date has yet to be set. "Additional time is necessary to ensure the safety of operations," revealed a company spokesperson on May 11th to local media outlets in Nagoya, adding "At this time we are unable to confirm our launch date." This becomes the third delay for the reincarnation of AirAsia's Japanese unit (New AirAsia Japan delays service entry to July 2016.).

Airbus A320-216(SL) JA02DJ/F-WWBO (msn 6972) lands at wet Toulouse after a test flight. It was delivered on April 27th and arrived at Chubu Centrair on May 5th. AirAsia Japan will commence operations with two aircraft. (Photo: Tobias Gudat)

Japan's fifth LCC in five years, AirAsia Japan (Mk II) took delivery of its second Airbus A320 on April 27th, and hiring ground-handling staff at Sapporo/New Chitose [CTS/RJCC] and Sendai [SDJ/RJSS] has been completed. However, the airline reportedly still lacks the adequate number of pilots, maintenance personnel, and operations control staff required by regulator Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB). Demand for trained aviation professionals is high due to the rapid growth of LCCs and AirAsia Japan (Mk II) may be having difficulty recruiting. It received an Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) in October last year (New AirAsia Japan receives AOC; takeoff in April 2016.), but has yet to pass inspections in maintenance and operations preparedness.

The latest delay pushes back its in-service date to October at earliest, and that is if actual flight training starts by June and JCAB checks including proving flights could be commenced by August. Training flights have yet to begin, and its two aircraft remain grounded at Nagoya/Chubu Centrair [NGO/RJGG] apart from a few sporadic flights to keep them airworthy. The later their launch, the more its competitors would become established in the market. AirAsia Japan (Mk II) had selected Chubu Centrair as there were no LCCs based at the airport serving the nation's third largest metropolitan area at that time (AirAsia Japan selects Nagoya Chubu Centrair.), however, now Jetstar Japan [GK/JJP] (Jetstar Japan starts Nagoya and Kansai to Manila.) and Spring Airlines [9C/CQH] among other LCCs are building up their networks.

Meanwhile, Chubu Centrair has decided to go ahead to build its LCC Terminal, which was planned but shelved when the first AirAsia Japan (Mk I) [JW/WAJ] suspended operations (CoachFlyer JW8541: NRT - FUK on AirAsia Japan's Airbus A320.). They will confirm its design and begin construction in FY2017, with completion slated for summer 2019. Jetstar Japan and Spring Airlines are also considering moving into the new terminal. The airport believes capacity at Tokyo/Haneda [HND/RJTT] and Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] is not large enough to absorb the increased demand during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics.

Source: Nikkei Shimbun, 2016 April 1st. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, 2016 May 6th. (in Japanese)
Source: Travel Vision, 2016 May 12th. (in Japanese)
Source: Traicy, 2016 May 12th. (in Japanese)