What We Know About Japan Airlines New Low Cost Long Haul Carrier

Japan Airlines have announced their ambition to connect to 500 destinations by next April. A number of these will inevitably go to the forthcoming Japan Airlines low cost long haul carrier, which is yet to be named. Here’s what we know so far.

Japan Airlines
Japan fly high as a full service carrier, but can they make a success of the low cost market too? Photo: Airbus

The growing demand for low cost flight options in the Asian market has spurred Japan Airlines to invest in setting up a long haul low cost carrier of their own. With a planned investment equivalent to around $200m, the fleet will be based out of Tokyo Narita International Airport.

The as yet unnamed airline with be complementary to their short and medium haul low cost carrier, Jetstar Japan, providing options for passengers on every route and at every level of service.

JAL business portfolio
Image: Japan Airlines

Budget air travel is yet to really take off in Japan, at least in the way it has in the West. Flying here is dominated by full service carriers JAL and ANA Holdings, and of course for domestic travel they have an exemplary high speed railway to rely on.

ANA A380
JAL and ANA have long dominated the local market for air travel

However, more and more Asian travellers want to reach further afield, and for less, which has led both JAL and ANA to investigate more extensive low cost offerings. As well as capturing a unique segment of the local market, low cost long haul will enable Japan Airlines to draw in more foreign visitors too, who typically baulk at the price of flying with the native carriers.

What do we know about the Japan Airlines low cost long haul carrier?

So far, we know which aircraft they’ll be using; two wide-body 787-8s at launch. The main carrier has a number of A350s on order, the first of which will be delivered this year, but as yet there are no plans to operate any of these on the low cost routes.

JAL are expecting delivery of Japan’s first A350 later this year

We also know when they’re coming, with the first flights due to take off in the summer of 2020. If they don’t incur any delays, this could put the new carrier in a strong position to deliver passengers for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, an even which has already seen the construction of a temporary terminal to accommodate the 40 million travellers Japan is anticipating for the games.

Today, JAL Group has announced it plans to connect to 500 destinations by the end of April 2020. That’s a staggering increase of 320 routes in just over a year. Securing additional international landing slots will be exciting for the JAL low cost long haul carrier, so it will be interesting to see where their focus takes them.

Some of JALs routes from Narita

With LCC airlines such as AirAsia X and Scoot looking to aggressively expand into Japan, the time is ripe for JAL to realise their ambitions of breaking into the long haul low cost market.

What are Japan Airlines’ other plans?

Right now, JAL are working on rebuilding customer trust, after a spate of incidents involving drunk pilots. This culminated in the airline receiving an official warning from the Japanese Ministry for Transport, demanding they make significant improvements or face having their license revoked.

Aside of these issues, JAL are looking to the future with positive eyes. The functional improvements which are underway at both Haneda and Narita airports have enabled them to look to further expansion. Their increase in destinations will come partly because of this, and also as they look to leverage their partnerships with other airlines.

In addition to this, they are planning a variety of improvements to passenger experience at the airport, including self check in and bag drop facilities. They have also said they are investing in automated gates and facial recognition for international flights.