Japan’s Zipair Sets First Flight Date In May

Japan’s newest low-cost airline is almost ready to take off. The airline’s maiden route between Tokyo and Bangkok is set to launch in May with another route to Seoul following in July. The airline will be operating Boeing 787-8s on both routes and will be operational for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Zipair plane in flight
ZipAir will begin flights to Bangkok in May. Photo: ZipAir


Japan Airlines’ new low-cost carrier start-up ZipAir will be taking to the skies just in time to take advantage of the influx of tourism for the 2020 summer Olympics. It will be the only low-cost carrier to service the Tokyo to Bangkok route. In May of this year, the airline will begin operations with the two Boeing aircraft it obtained from Japan Airlines.

Both planes have been reconfigured and given new cabins to add extra seats. Both aircraft can now carry 290 passengers across two classes; economy and business. Although it’s only starting with two, the airline is hoping to expand its fleet over the coming five years to 10 aircraft.

In March 2019, when the airline was just finding its feet, it announced that it has further long-term plans to reach a fleet of over 20 aircraft in order to offer international transfer flights to Europe and North American. Japan Airlines, the parent of ZipAir, has four more Boeing 787-8s on order for delivery in April, June, August and December of this year.

However, the airline is starting with just two routes From Tokyo’s Narita airport to Bangkok and Seoul. As the only budget airline to offer the Bangkok route, it may very quickly find itself in demand. However, for the Seoul route, opening in July, the airline will be competing against several low-cost Korean carriers including Air Seoul, Eastar jet and Jeju Air.

Japan Airlines Tokyo 2020 livery GettyImages
Zip Air is part of Japan Airlines and will be launched in time for the 2020 Olympics. Photo: Getty Images

Despite competition for the Seoul route, ZipAir’s chief marketing officer Yasuhiro Fukada is confident that both routes will be efficient start-up routes as the airline begins to grow. And it should grow, it’s in good hands.

Japan Airlines already operates another low-cost carrier, Jetstar Japan. Jetstar Japan operates 25 Airbus A320s across both domestic and regional routes to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei and Manilla. However, it currently only offers international routes to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines and does not offer the long haul European and American routes that are being eyed by ZipAir.

New airlines in 2020

But as ZipAir prepares to launch, many will be questioning if this is the right time. Airlines around the world are struggling financially under the weight of rising fuel costs, and launching another LCC at this time may not be seen as prudent. Does everyone still remember Thomas Cook? But Japan Airlines isn’t the only one launching new carriers in 2020.

Thailand is set to gain two new budget airlines; Thai Summer Airways and Thai Eastar Jet. Both airlines have operating licenses and will be ready to launch in the coming months hoping to take advantage of the rising tourism in Thailand.

Thomas Cook Aircraft Getty Images
Several Airlines went bust in 2019 including Thomas Cook. Photo: Getty Images

Pakistan’s new start-up Air Sial has taken delivery of three Airbus A320s in order to start operation this year as a locally funding airline bring tourism to Pakistan. And it isn’t just Asia gaining new names; America is set to gain a currently unnamed airline known as Breeze/Moxy which will be based in Salt Lake City.

After the collapse of Jet Airways, seven new airlines began operating out of India and it seems as though almost every airline in the world from American Airlines to Ryanair is launching new routes for summer 2020. With so many new routes and new airlines, it will be interesting to see if Japan Airlines will make a success out of their new budget airline. I guess we’ll have to wait to find out!