ZIPAIR Plans Boeing 787 Honolulu Launch This Winter

First announced in late April, Japan Airlines’ low-cost subsidiary Zipair is going ahead with its plan to offer a Narita-Honolulu service during the winter travel season. While the airline had hoped to launch passenger service in the Spring, its plans were dashed by the global health crisis. Anticipating leisure travel will pick-up, here’s what the airline has in store for the next few months.

Intending to launch passenger service in May, Zipair’s maiden flight carried cargo rather than passengers due to the global crisis. Photo: Melv L-MACASR via Wikimedia Commons

According to Japanese aviation media outlet Aviation Wire, Zipair intends to launch two routes in the coming months. The first and much shorter passenger service is between Tokyo Narita and Seoul Incheon. This airline is reportedly aiming to start this flight by the end of September at the earliest.

Tokyo Narita to Honolulu with Zipair

The airline’s Narita-Honolulu service will be a key route for the budget carrier. Announced in April, this leisure-oriented-service is set to operate a once-daily flight using a former Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8.

According to the airline’s president, the carrier is in the process of jumping through the usual regulatory hurdles to begin this new service:

“We are in the process of obtaining a flight permit from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and obtaining “ETOPS”, which allows us to fly at sea for a certain period of time even if one engine stops.” -Shingo Nishida, President of ZIPAIR via Aviation Wire

Sources also note that the US Department of Transportation (DOT) had already issued a business license on July 10th.

The flight from Tokyo Narita to Honolulu is 6146km or 3319 nautical miles. Photo:

With the winter season as the target start for this route, it is anticipated that service could begin as early as October 25th – which is the official start of the winter timetable.  This was confirmed with the president’s remarks to Aviation Wire, with Nishida saying, “We want to be ready by the first day of the winter timetable.” Of course, another requirement is that the Hawaii state government is ready and willing to accept foreigners. With about a month and a half to go, this remains a big ‘unknown.’

The service will be competing somewhat with ANA’s A380 service to Honolulu.

Zipair’s 787-8

Once operated by affiliate carrier Japan Airlines, two 787-8s comprise Zipair’s functioning fleet. According to data from, both Dreamliners are between eight and nine years of age – both flying with Japan Airlines since March 2012. The line numbers for the two aircraft are 23 and 33, indicating that the jets were the 23rd and 33rd Dreamliners built – some of the first.

The jets are configured to offer 290 seats in two classes. The business class will have 18 seats in “ZIP Full-Flat,” which going by the apparent name, indicate that these will be fully lie-flat beds. The 272 seats of the aircraft will be “Standard” economy class.

It’s a challenging time to launch an airline. How do you think Zipair will fair in this extremely challenging market? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.