Japan’s New LCC Zipair Eyes United States Boeing 787 Flights

Japan Airlines subsidiary carrier Zipair is preparing to offer transpacific flights connecting Japan to America. The airline has confirmed its plans to become a mid- to long-haul carrier and aims to use a fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s to facilitate its operations.

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Zipair will use its Boeing Dreamliners to fly to America. Photo: Zipair

Zipair hasn’t even begun flying yet but it is already aiming high. The low-cost carrier has announced plans to use a fleet of 10 787s to fly long haul routes to fly across the Pacific to destinations in America. If successful, it will be the first low-cost carrier to operate in this sector.

The airline has yet to launch its maiden flight which is due to take place in May. Zipair, based at Tokyo’s Narita airport, will begin by offering flights to Bangkok and then to Seoul from July. It has not announced a timeline for its plans across the Pacific.

The Boeing Dreamliner

The airline announced its plans on the first day of the Singapore Airshow and paid specific attention to its choice of aircraft; the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The carrier currently only has two aircraft, both 787s obtained from parent airline JAL. It aims to operate a fleet of 10 787s by 2024 with the third aircraft due to be delivered early next year.

Zipair said the 787 is the best aircraft for its plans. The airline cited ease of procurement and maintenance as reasons for its aircraft choice. It also pointed out the aircraft is a best-seller for large Japanese and American carriers. The presentation was made to press at the air show in collaboration with Boeing.

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Zipair already has two Boeing 787 Dreamliners and plans to have a fleet of 10 aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

Zipair recently debuted the new interior of its first 787. The aircraft has been reconfigured from its days with Japan Airlines and now offers 290 seats; 272 economy and 18 business class. The seats are made of synthetic leather which lightens the aircraft by an equivalent 29% reduction per passenger.

New basic

The airline, although low-cost, is attempting to set itself apart from other budget carriers by becoming a “new basic” class. It aims to sit somewhere between the true low-cost carrier and the full-service, high price of some other international airlines.

Zipair claims the aviation industry has been “polarised” by the two main options and it says it will cater to a middle-ground. The interior of its cabin certainly suggests a low-cost carrier but with a luxury twist.

The biggest point for most passengers is clear; no embedded in-flight entertainment screens. This is something many travelers have become accustomed to and it will be interesting to see how people react to this once the airline is up and running.

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Zipair’s cabin design does not feature entertainment screens. Photo: Zipair

But is there a market for a middle-ground? And don’t several long-haul, low-cost carriers already exist? In fact, last year Norwegian was named the “World’s best low-cost Long-haul Airline” by Skytrax for the fifth year in a row. So, if there is even an award category for it, it can hardly be considered a “new basic”.

Zipair seems to be trying to set itself apart in terms of the luxury of its onboard services and facilities. But with no entertainment screens, no first-class and even its onboard streaming services are not free, it remains to be seen if the airline’s market pitch will be a success.

It is certainly an innovative approach and perhaps this is the style of airline the industry doesn’t know it needs. It’s certainly going to be one to watch over the coming months and years. At the time of publication, the airline had not responded to a request for comment.

Let us know what you think of Zipair in the comment section.