The Japan Air Lines owned low-cost carrier ZIPAIR has finally operated its first passenger flight. Just two passengers participated in today’s inaugural service between Tokyo and Seoul onboard the airline’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. Not to be put off, ZIPAIR has announced a ramp-up of flights, adding one more rotation a week from October 25. Bangkok and even Honolulu remain on the radar, and further announcements could be expected in the coming weeks.
ZIPAIR finally takes off
Today, finally, Japan’s new low-cost carrier ZIPAIR flew its first passengers. Its Boeing 787-8 took off from Narita bound for Seoul, with the first paying passengers onboard. The airline was expected to begin flying the route on July 1, but border restrictions and travel blocks meant it couldn’t launch.
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The 787 hasn’t been resting all summer, however. ZIPAIR has been busy flying cargo between South Korea and Japan, as well as to Bangkok from its hub at Narita. Now, as April from the airline’s editorial department said in its blog,
“…the day has finally come when dreams are no longer dreams!”
Departing from Narita International Terminal 1, the airline’s crew were delighted to finally welcome their first passengers. In the airport, a small event took place, attended by its president Shingo Nishida. He gave a short presentation on the hopes for the airline as well as its preparations to keep passengers safe during the pandemic. He said,
“After delaying the operation of passenger flights once due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, we are finally able to serve you. We will make every effort to make air a new option for travel between Korea and Japan, and through thorough preparations, we will strive to transport between Korea and Japan, including businessmen and international students.”
— TRAICY（トライシー） (@traicycom) October 15, 2020
Just two passengers
In a bit of a blow to the new airline, just two passengers participated in the inaugural flight. According to Aviation Wire, one was a Japanese man, and the other a Korean woman. Both opted for the ZIPAIR ‘full flat’ experience in the business class cabin.
For these special passengers, ZIPAIR provided commemorative items for this first flight, as well as a ‘ZIP CARE KIT’ containing sanitization items. All future passengers will get the ZIP CARE KIT on boarding, as well as access to free WiFi and the new ZIPAIR smartphone ordering service.
The flight pushed back just about on time, departing at 09:32. It was treated to a water cannon salute as it left Narita. After crossing the sea of Japan and making up the time lost at the gate, the flight touched down in South Korea at 11:37, ten minutes ahead of schedule.
Nishida was unperturbed by the low turnout for the flight, telling Travel Watch,
“The cargo demand is strong, and we are able to cover the minimum cost required for operation with that. Of course, I would appreciate seeing many passengers on board, but I’m not disappointed just because it’s small. “
／ #ZIPAIR 旅客便初就航㊗️🎉
— ZIPAIRTokyo (@ZIPAIRTokyo) October 16, 2020
Not to be deterred by the low turnout for its first flight, ZIPAIR is already planning to ramp up its schedule between Narita and Seoul. From October 25, the twice-weekly rotation will become thrice-weekly, adding a flight on Sundays to the schedule.
From October until the end of the IATA winter season (March 26, 2021), ZIPAIR will run ZG41 from Narita (NRT) at 08:40 on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, arriving into Seoul (ICN) at 11:15. The return trip will operate at 12:40 on the same days, landing back in Tokyo at 15:05.
Sales for the new Sunday service will begin today at 18:00.
The one-way fare through to November 26 will be 30,000 to 141,000 yen ($285 – $1,340) for the ‘fully flat’ ZIP experience; a business class seat that rivals that of many full-service airlines. For economy, expect a fare of 8,000 to 30,000 yen ($76 – $285). The fares include up to 7kg of hand baggage, but airport taxes and charges are paid separately.
What about other routes?
While the first passenger service is a milestone to celebrate, ZIPAIR has other plans on its radar too. The airline had intended to launch passenger service to Bangkok even before Seoul, with flights planned for May 14. While this is still on the cards, Nishida told Travel Watch it would take a little more time to start.
“Bangkok is different from Seoul because passenger flights from overseas are prohibited. It is difficult to send passenger flights from Japan. However, flights leaving Bangkok are not prohibited. We are preparing to operate the outbound flight as a cargo-only flight and the return flight as a passenger flight,” he said. “We will start at the beginning of the winter schedule at the earliest.”
It would be an interesting way to tackle the issue of the inbound passenger ban in Thailand. With the winter season start just over a week away, we could see an announcement from the Japanese low-cost on this route very soon.
But what about that transpacific route? ZIPAIR has always been keen to operate a service to Honolulu, and the president said that plans have not changed. He said,
“Procedures with the US and Japanese authorities have progressed smoothly, and ETOPS permission was obtained on October 5. Since some procedures remain, we hope to be ready on October 25. But there are still some things that will take some time. We will be ready in early November and will wait for the ban on Hawaii to be lifted.”