Japan seeking US involvement in ASEAN community
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HK Express receives first A321 and awaits A320neo as Hong Kong's LCC rate grows to 10 percent
HK Express continues to work towards its goal of ending 2018 with 50 aircraft. HK Express will end 2016 with 18 aircraft, including its first A321s and A320neo. The A321s provide additional capacity per movement – important to bring costs down, but also to grow where traffic and slots (at Hong Kong and abroad) do not permit.
Asian LCCs are increasingly gravitating to larger aircraft to try to overcome insufficient infrastructure. Larger narrowbodies at LCCs gained wide awareness with AirAsia's A321 order, although many other LCCs will operate larger types before AirAsia receives its first A321. The A320neo brings additional range, besides the usual efficiency improvements.
HK Express plans to end 2017 with 32 aircraft. Even if sustainable markets can be found, this is rapid growth for an opaque slot system at Hong Kong International Airport. HK Express' continued growth will further boost the share of seats that LCCs operate at Hong Kong. LCCs account for 10% of capacity at Hong Kong in 2016 – up from 5% in 2012. The gains have mostly been earned due to HK Express. With as much success as HK Express claims, it might now be time for the LCC to open its books and present transparent financial reports.
China-Japan: Peach, Jetstar Japan & China United the latest LCCs to enter Asia's 3rd largest market
Japan-China is the third largest international country pair in Northeast and Southeast Asia. The market has expanded due to Chinese outbound visitor growth, with Chinese visitor numbers doubling from 2.4 million in 2014 to 5.0 million in 2015, and 9M2016 shows a further 30% expansion. LCCs account for approximately 10% of the market, and there are an expected three further LCC entrants in the Japan-China market: Peach Aviation, Jetstar Japan and China United Airlines. Their entry, however, comes after the major boom: eight airlines have entered the market since 2014.
The impact of the additional LCCs will be minimal in network size: Peach's four weekly Osaka-Shanghai flights are in addition to an existing 117 weekly flights. Over the long term there are strong opportunities for LCCs (as evidenced by the first mover Spring Airlines), but in the near future the greatest impact from additional LCCs will be in reminding Chinese full service airlines of alternative business models and their own need to reform. To a Chinese airline a Japanese LCC is almost paradoxical: an airline trying to be low cost in a high cost country with low population growth. Yet the relative success of Japanese LCCs provides a case study – and also market challenges.