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Jetstar Japan is a joint venture between Qantas Airways, Japan Airlines and Mitsubishi Corporation. The carrier operates from its hub at Tokyo Narita International Airport, with a secondary base at Osaka Kansai. The LCC operates domestic services to cities including Fukuoka, Okinawa and Sapporo. Jetstar Japan's fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft are sourced from affiliate Qantas Airways.
Location of Jetstar Japan main hub (Tokyo Narita Airport)
LCCs will continue to evolve into hybrids of the original core model. CAPA and OAG consider Jetstar Japan fits the LCC profile and it is included in our reporting on this basis. Please note: when reporting for an airline is changed from or to LCC the historical data is not affected and it can lead to a distortion in the current reported data. Contact us if you have any queries.
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There's no room to stand still in the airline business. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce's often controversial measures during a turbulent four years are being vindicated. His aggressive transformation of Qantas appears now to be showing remarkable dividends, with the prospect of going from a billion dollar loss in 2014 to a billion dollar profit just a year on. Next on the agenda will be growth.
Qantas International has returned to profitability for the first time since the global financial crisis (GFC); this is partially due to depreciation gains following large write-downs in FY2014, but there is a fundamental redirection too. Qantas Domestic has bounced back now that the domestic capacity war is over and with room for further improvement. Jetstar has returned to profit but is still under-performing compared to previous years, again with more upside.
Lower fuel costs will deliver Qantas a minimum AUD500 million benefit, setting the group up for a full-year profit around AUD1 billion. The fuel tailwind is an added bonus. Even without it, there are structural changes that will continue to flow through irrespective of that windfall. "Today we can see a bright future," Mr Joyce says.
Yet that proclamation means Qantas must address calls for it to return to growth now that its dark days of restructuring are, if not all behind it, at least nearing fruition. Initially growth is expected to be mostly in the international market as the relatively mature domestic market may be challenged by weak consumer sentiment. For the longer term international growth must be the goal; this will hinge on the synergies Qantas can gain with its key international partners, and if Qantas is successful in lobbying for a slowdown in foreign carrier growth.
Japanese aviation once again has a loss of face with Skymark Airlines filing for bankruptcy almost five years to the date Japan Airlines did so. But like JAL, Skymark's filing with liabilities of JPY71 billion (USD603 million, a fraction of JAL's USD25 billion filing) may prove to be the best option forward, and a chance to emerge stronger. (The carrier will be de-listed but remain flying.) Skymark's filing was accompanied with resignation of Shinichi Nishikubo. He was more than Skymark's CEO and largest shareholder: he took a deeply personal vested interest and ran the company top-down. Skymark without Mr Nishikubo is a scenario many employees could not have imagined. But this is an opportunity.
Skymark now has a tabula rasa. Mr Nishikubo used Skymark to crusade against legacy incumbent airlines, creating friction when there became a need last year to have a logical codeshare with those same incumbents. Initially a revelation in the Japan market as a successful LCC, Mr Nishikubo's involvement, such as personally making Skymark's IT systems or deciding on the A380 purchase, sacrificed Skymark's strategic value and chance for development. Skymark must now decide what its future is, and without Mr Nishikubo Skymark there is no predestined direction. Routes will be cancelled and the A330s withdrawn. Skymark has a foundation to build on, and finally being able to create a sound strategy should rightfully see investors line up.
Osaka Kansai-based LCC Peach Aviation is looking to consolidate its position in the Japanese LCC market. Although it is the second largest (Jetstar Japan is first), Peach is the only known profitable LCC. Peach is expected to open a base at Tokyo Narita, becoming the fourth LCC with an operation there. Skymark has pulled down its Narita base following weak demand.
At Narita, Peach - part owned by All Nippon Airways - will compete with Jetstar Japan but also Vanilla Air, which is wholly owned by ANA. Peach appears to be taking the view the market is competition between itself and Jetstar and with Vanilla Air something of a distraction. No doubt the ANA strategy is confused – a conflicted scenario that was inevitable from its involvement in two domestic LCCs in Japan.
Peach will further boost its position by operating international flights from Tokyo Haneda, becoming the first new LCC at Haneda. Peach already operates international services while Jetstar Japan will only open its first international route on 28-Feb-2015. Meanwhile Spring Airlines Japan, with low yields and load factors, has increased its capitalisation while it waits to serve more lucrative international destinations.
While many airlines are reducing flights to Japan, Qantas is joining Air New Zealand in growing services. The thinking behind the move is partially that outbound traffic to Japan will grow with the yen's depreciation, but also that as other carriers cut capacity in Japan, outbound Japanese traffic has fewer options. Australia and New Zealand were once big favourites of Japanese travellers; as recently as 2005 Japan was Australia's third largest source of travellers. Now the China market has overshadowed growth developments.
Qantas from Aug-2015 will launch a daily service to Tokyo Haneda from an Australian city to be confirmed by the end of 2014. Although Haneda is more convenient than Narita, Qantas will need to contend with Haneda's limited slots – potentially making Sydney-Haneda a difficult option. By offering more options, Qantas will hope to regain traffic from Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, which carry about 19% of Australia-Japan passengers. But those sixth freedom carriers will likely retain an advantage with their city pair and time combinations.
Japan's Peach Aviation has reported its maiden profit after just over two years of operations. At a 6.5% operating margin, Peach's performance was better than part-owner All Nippon Airways' 4.1% operating margin. Peach's profits are over-shadowed by large losses at Jetstar Japan, which recorded a negative 36.8% operating margin compared to part-owner Japan Airlines' 12.7% margin; JAL Group has Japan's highest-margin and lowest-margin airlines. Jetstar Japan's performance was worse than losses at Skymark and smaller StarFlyer.
Jetstar Japan is on the mend after launching its Osaka Kansai base that has boosted aircraft productivity, which at one point was half that of Peach's. Peach's utilisation is coming down while Spring Airlines Japan continues with heavy under-utilisation.
Jetstar Japan was one of only two carriers to show yield growth in 1Q2014. Jetstar is slowing its growth while Peach expects to continue the conservative but steady growth that has been its hallmark.
LCCs are kickstarting growth between Hong Kong and Tokyo, a route that has seen relatively flat capacity in recent times but in Mar-2015 will be 27% larger than a year prior, making Hong Kong-Tokyo Asia's 15th largest international route based on seat capacity.
Mar-2015 seat capacity will be the highest in nearly a decade. LCCs in Mar-2015 will comprise 20% of seat capacity, up from zero a mere 18 months prior. HK Express will offer three daily flights – giving it more capacity than Japan Airlines – while Vanilla Air will have double daily services. Vanilla's bold growth comes as owner All Nippon Airways launches its own overnight flights to target the leisure segment. The dual-brand strategy between the two centres on ANA's Haneda base and full-service offering while Vanilla is low-cost and based at Narita.
ANA's growth will largely preserve its Hong Kong-Tokyo market share while Vanilla Air will help ANA grow. HK Express is also gaining in market share while Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines, which do not have LCC units on the route, are losing share - although Cathay still accounts for about half of the market.