Zipair Tokyo On Track For 2020 Launch

Japanese LCC Zipair Tokyo has taken one more step towards its first flight in 2020.

Zipair concept in flight
Four B787-800s on order for Zipair spells a likely rapid expansion. Photo: Zipair

Flight Global reports that the Japan Airlines’ no-frills spin-off has received its Air Operator’s Certificate from Japan’s Transport Ministry. The announcement was made in a Zipair Tokyo press release on July 5th. It comes just a few months after the airline announced its official registration (March) and unveiled its new livery (April).

The JAL subsidiary intends to begin flights between Narita International Airport and Bangkok from May 14th, 2020. From July 1st, it hopes to service a route between Narita and Seoul.

The carrier will offer a daily return service on both routes using two B787-8s. Its aircraft have been seconded from JAL and reconfigured to a high-density format, allowing space for 290 seats. In comparison, the JAL B787-8 configuration used to house 186 seats.

Competition

In March we reported on news from JAL of their registration of the new carrier. The scheduled launch date was (and still is) 2020, with tentative date sets for inaugural flights on both routes. Bosses of the carrier hope the airline will be up and running in time to meet higher passenger demand during the Tokyo Olympics.

ZIPAIR logo
Zipair is ready for an expected launch in March 2020. Photo: Zipair

Zipair will be the only budget carrier servicing the Bangkok route. However, it will be flying into the wake of five solid South Korean LCCs already on the Seoul route: Air Seoul, Eastar Jet, Jeju Air, Jin Air, and T’way Air. That prospect does not overly concern Zipair president Shingo Nishida. He admits that the new carrier’s biggest rival will instead be Japan’s budget Peach Aviation, which is the domestic arm of JAL’s arch-nemesis ANA.

Zipair aims to eventually offer trans-Pacific and European flights as well, these being less well-served at present by Japanese LCCs. JAL’s only other low-cost carrier, Jetstar Japan, services Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei and the Philippines. It operates 25 A320s fitted with 180 economy class seats.

Expansion a cert

It is likely the routes outlined in Zipair’s recent AOC will enjoy healthy custom. Bangkok and Seoul were chosen in order to maximize early-fleet utilization. But Zipair is clear about its intention to expand its network above and beyond, and to do it rapidly.

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We reported in April that from 2021 Zipair will take delivery of two 787-8s in four successive years. By the middle of the decade, its fleet will number 10, which will allow it to expand into many more routes.

JAL B787 concept in flight
Trans-Pacific and European flights are the target of Zipair. Photo: Boeing

The planes on order will be configured for 240 economy class and 50 business class seats. Flight Global expects the aircraft will be delivered between April and December next year. Once it is awarded an extended twin-engine AOC, Zipair’s sights are sure to be firmly set on Europe and North America.

Target audience

Some industry observers suggest Zipair will level its ticket price and cabin experience to the holidaymaker rather than the commuter. That target demographic could include thrifty Japanese travelers heading east to Hawaii, Las Vegas or San Francisco. It may also include those heading due south to Oceania.

European routes, suggests Boarding Area, may include those not currently serviced by JAL, such as Helsinki, Moscow, Madrid and Rome.

LCCs account for around 10% of the domestic travel market in Japan, but that figure is expected to rise steadily in the next few years. This is due. in no uncertain terms, to a push by the Japanese government to bolster the number of foreign visitors to the country by 20 million in the next ten years.

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