Japan Airlines’ LCC ZIPAIR Has Its Launch Delayed

The Japan Airlines owned low-cost carrier startup ZIPAIR has been confirmed today to have postponed its launch as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. ZIPAIR was due to begin service on May 14th, but will now push back this launch until at least early June.

Zipair concept in flight
ZIPAIR won’t launch as expected in May. Photo: Zipair

ZIPAIR launch delayed

The launch of Japan Airlines’ own low-cost carrier has been eagerly anticipated since it was announced way back in May 2018. Since day one, JAL has been targeting launch at the summer 2020 season, in time for the (now sadly postponed) Tokyo Summer Olympics.

The initial route was planned to be from Tokyo to Bangkok, with a service launch on 14th May. Following this should have been the second destination – Seoul – which was slated to start on July 1st. However, due to the ongoing downturn in travel demand, the airline has today announced that it will postpone its service launch until further notice.

In an announcement on its website, ZIPAIR said,

“Although the postponement of ZIPAIR Tokyo may come as a disappointment, the safety and the well-being of our customers and employees are a top priority. We would like to ask for your understanding during this unprecedented time and we look forward to seeing you onboard in the near future.”

Although the announcement gives no indication of when these flights could be postponed until, Japanese outlet AviationWire suggests that, should demand return as predicted, we could see ZIPAIR take to the skies in early June.

However, with Thailand still maintaining a ban on international flights and Japan itself declaring a State of Emergency, there are a lot of unknowns to figure out before ZIPAIR can be sure of a successful launch.

Reasons to look forward to ZIPAIR

There are still plenty of reasons to look forward to the start of service by this ambitious low-cost carrier, not least the aircraft it’s planning to operate. ZIPAIR has two Boeing 787-8s in its fleet, both leased from parent JAL, and is expecting at least another two to join its stable eventually.

Unusually for a low-cost carrier, ZIPAIR has configured its Dreamliners with a superb looking business class cabin. The 1-2-1 herringbone layout gives everyone direct aisle access and a fully flat seat. Further back, the 272 economy seats offer around 31-32” of pitch, which is pretty standard, but includes a comfortable headrest. All aircraft will be connected for WiFi, with a ‘bring your own device’ policy planned for IFE.

The business class seat. Photo: ZIPAIR

Although ZIPAIR planned to start small, with just two routes announced so far, it has ambitions far beyond just Thailand and Korea. Back in February, it was revealed that ZIPAIR was eyeing transpacific flights to the USA once it was established in its home markets, which would make it the first LCC on this sector.

Economy seats onboard ZIPAIR. Photo: ZIPAIR

Despite its delayed launch, there is no signal from the company that it’s anything less than a pause. Unlike some more unlucky startups, such as Starlux, ZIPAIR has the added benefit of a powerful parent backing it.

Although there’s no longer the impetus of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for the airline, the Games are only suspended and will be back next year. As such, our money is on ZIPAIR eventually enjoying a highly successful launch, and giving passengers traveling to and from Japan a low-cost option for comfortable travels.

What do you think about ZIPAR? Something much needed in the Japanese market, or just more unnecessary capacity? Let us know in the comments.