ETOPS Certification Makes Honolulu Realistic For Japan’s ZIPAIR

Today, Japan’s newest airline ZIPAIR announced it has received ETOPS authorization from the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau. Receiving ETOPS allows the airline to fly its Boeing 787-8 over the ocean for longer periods of time. ETOPS is a safety certification for twin-engine planes.

ZIPAIR’s ETOPS certification take sit one step closer to a route to Hawaii. Photo: ZIPAIR

ETOPS stands for Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards. It was developed in the 1980s to ensure that any planes flying over oceans were close enough to airports to perform emergency landings. ETOPS began at just 120 minutes from any airport. Previous rules meant planes could not operate more than 60 minutes of flying time away from an airport.

ZIPAIR confirmed today in a statement on its website that it received permission for 180-minute ETOPS flights. The airlines specified that the permission relates directly to ocean-going flights and “improves its on-time performance and operational capabilities.”

ZIPAIR currently operates two Boeing 787 Dreamliners, having only launched earlier this year. Currently, it flies local routes between Tokyo’s Narita and Seoul. The airline plans to launch its second route to Bangkok starting later this week.

Why does it need ETOPS?

ETOPS certification is not necessary for all flights. Many routes don’t require any additional certification because they only fly close to densely populated areas with plenty of airports en route. This means that should an engine fail; the plane can safely land nearby.

Boeing 787
ETOPS are necessary twin-engine aircraft like the Boeing 787-8 in case of engine failure. Photo: Boeing

ZIPAIR’s flight to Seoul, for example, takes just under two hours, and should an issue arise mid-flight, Niigata airport is directly on the route. However, as the airline starts to extend its network, it will need to fly over the open ocean for longer periods. This is why it need ETOPS.


The airline previously announced it has its eye on flights to Honolulu. Without an ETOPS certification, this would not be possible. The average flight time connecting Hawaii to Tokyo is around eight hours. The distance is 6146km or 3319 nautical miles. All of this flight is over the open ocean.

Hawaiian Airlines, Tokyo, ANA
The flight between Honolulu and Tokyo crosses 6,000km of open ocean. Photo: GCMaps

The ETOPS certification takes ZIPAIR one step closer to securing its Hawaii route. The airline is looking to launch flights to Hawaii as its first US destination later this year.  The airline originally wanted to launch leisure flights to Hawaii in spring, but the global downturn put all of its plans on hold. However, the airline has plowed onwards despite adversity to launch its first route, the second to follow this week.

Now, as it promised, it has secured the ETOPS certification is can really focus on securing the right to fly to Hawaii. Of course, the fact that it theoretically can is very different from the reality of it will. Hawaii has been pretty closed off to visitors in recent months. Although this is now changing as the island hopes new testing procedures will encourage tourists. They may be looking to ZIPAIR to bring in a new leisure route, which will benefit both Hawaii and ZIPAIR.

What do you think of ZIPAIR’s plans? Will it succeed in launching flights to Hawaii during this difficult period? Let us know what you think in the comments.