Japan Airlines’ Zipair Plans Cargo Only Flights For Launch

Japan Airlines’ low-cost subsidiary Zipair has revealed today that it is gearing up for launch. However, in an unexpected twist, the first flights of this start-up airline will not be carrying any passengers. Instead, Zipair will launch with cargo-only flights between Narita and Bangkok from June 3rd.

Zipair 787
Zipair will launch next month, but not with passengers. Photo: Melv_L – MACASR via Wikimedia

Zipair ready for launch, but not exactly as planned

Start-up Japanese airline Zipair has firmed up plans for its launch, but perhaps not in quite the format it had hoped. The Japan Airlines low-cost subsidiary, which had previously targeted a May launch for passenger services, will now begin life as a cargo-only operator.

The airline announced today, May 21st, that its first flights will begin between Narita and Bangkok on June 3rd. But rather than providing a cheap alternative to mainline carrier flights for passengers, the airline will shift cargo only for the foreseeable future.

The cargo-only flights will launch on June 3rd. Photo: Zipair.

The airline had previously planned to begin services on exactly this route (NRT – BKK) on May 14th. However, due to the coronavirus crisis, the airline has been unable to make its launch as planned. Problems with border restrictions and low travel demand mean passenger flights are unfeasible, so the cargo operation is a way to get Zipair off the ground in the meantime.

Four flights per week

The airline has specified that it will operate four round trips between Tokyo and Bangkok going forward. It’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner, transferred from parent Japan Airlines, will be capable of carrying 20 tons of cargo with each flight. In a statement carried by FlightGlobal, the airline said,

“As airlines continue to suspend flights, the need for air cargo services is in demand. As such, Zipair Tokyo announced the plan to launch cargo-only flights utilizing the carrier’s Boeing 787-8 aircraft between the two countries.”

The flights will begin on June 3rd and are predicted to be well utilized, given the low capacity for cargo carried in the belly of passenger planes right now. The airline has confirmed that it will not be using the passenger cabin for these cargo movements, and instead will only use the belly space for freight.

Unsurprisingly, Zipair will not spoil the shiny new cabin with cargo. Photo: ZIPAIR

The four round trips will operate from Wednesday to Saturday. Flight numbers will be ZG51, which will depart from Narita at 17:20 each day, arriving into Bangkok at 22:00. The returning flight will be ZG52 and will depart Bangkok at 23:30, arriving back to Narita at 07:45 the following day.

Zipair has said it will be codesharing with parent airline Japan Airlines on the freight business for now.

When will passenger flights begin?

It’s a sad outcome for the carrier’s beautiful 787 Dreamliner, but a service that is much needed during the current climate. Unsurprisingly, the airline is reluctant to use the brand new cabin of the Dreamliner for load moving, preferring instead to leave that ‘new plane smell’ for its future passengers.

In terms of when flights will launch, the airline has said that it plans to begin service with passengers between Narita and Seoul on July 1st. Right now, tickets are not on sale, as the airline is awaiting the development of the current crisis before making them available for purchase.

zip air interior
Passengers may be able to start flying with Zipair in July. Photo: Zipair

Once the Seoul route is established, Zipair plans to head to the United States. It already applied for permission for a route between Narita and Honolulu, Hawaii, with the US Department of Transportation. Right now, it’s aiming to begin service in time for the winter season, beginning on October 25th.

Are you looking forward to Zipair’s passenger launch? Let us know in the comments.