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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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Japan Airlines is eagerly counting down to 01-Apr-2017, which is expected to be the date when business expansion restrictions on JAL that were put in place after its bankruptcy restructuring will be lifted. The rules are complex and contain exceptions; JAL has been able to open new service to points like Boston and San Diego and invest in Jetstar Japan, but not able to open other routes or to invest in Skymark Airlines. Recent years have been a bonanza for its rival All Nippon Airways, which had been Japan's No. 2 airline but used government support and JAL's restrictions to embark on ambitious expansion, from long haul growth to purchasing Skymark Airlines and A380s.
JAL is unlikely to engage in rapid capacity expansion. JAL is firmly focused on maintaining high airline margins while replicating ANA's group strategy of non-cyclical ground-based businesses (flight training, maintenance, etc.). One exception however is Southeast Asia, where ANA has been growing. Japan has become politically closer to Southeast Asia and commercially too, with tourism influxes.
Yet there is still a hesitation when it comes to organic growth. One solution could be a partnership with AirAsia, which would give JAL access to a wide network and growing business segment. In return, JAL could even invest in AirAsia Japan, which is facing start-up delays and could benefit from parental help. JAL would join ANA in having two LCCs; JAL is an investor in Jetstar Japan, whose owner Jetstar is a partial rival to AirAsia. JAL-AirAsia would combine two of ANA's main foes: AirAsia Japan, which was a JV between ANA and AirAsia, was dissolved in bitter disagreement.
All Nippon Airways is going back to its roots. Japan's second airline commenced international scheduled service in Mar-1986 with a service to Guam, one of the Pacific Islands that attracts Japanese tourists. ANA's international launch was hard fought against the then mighty Japan Airlines, and ANA has since focused on blue-chip premium routes. In doing so, it has placed less focus on the beach/resort markets such as Guam, Hawaii and Palau. Despite JAL's shrinkage – it is now smaller than ANA – JAL remains the largest in these beach markets.
ANA is considering how its wholly owned LCC Vanilla Air could expand there and give ANA a larger group presence, Vanilla Air president Tomonori Ishii said at CAPA's recent Asian Aviation Summit in Singapore. JAL has similarly used its LCC, Jetstar Japan, to give it a larger group presence in markets ANA was traditionally stronger in, such as Nagoya and onsen destinations in the south. Vanilla Air will need widebodies to reach these leisure markets non-stop from Japan, and this is a development under consideration. It would be a leap for Japan's still relatively young LCC sector, but ANA faces the larger task of perhaps integrating its two LCCs, Vanilla and Peach.
Japanese LCCs could tackle booming Chinese market as AirAsia Japan launches and Spring Japan expands
There is no shortage of superlatives to describe the passenger traffic growth between China and Japan. Chinese visitors are quickly becoming Japan's single largest tourism source. China Southern's Japan passenger numbers in the first nine months of 2015 have exceeded its traffic for the full year 2014. 14 Chinese airlines intend to serve Japan at the end of 2015, including five carriers which have entered in 2014 or 2015. China's Spring Airlines has virtual bases at Nagoya and Osaka Kansai and is planning to construct hotels in Japan to accommodate the visitors it is bringing over.
Japan's LCC sector is vibrant, with five start-ups in four years. They have helped rejuvenate Japanese traffic despite the shrinking economy and decreasing local population. Yet they have remained absent from the China-Japan market. The 2012 China-Japan territorial dispute weakened travel conditions, and since then the local LCCs appear to have felt overwhelmed by the influx of Chinese carrier capacity. This will start to change: AirAsia Japan plans to launch in Mar-2016 and eventually serve China, a market its affiliate carriers know well. Spring Airlines Japan, the locally established JV of Shanghai-based Spring, will finally commence international services in 2016 and is making two Chinese cities, Chongqing and Wuhan, its first destinations. Despite the growth already witnessed, this is only the beginning for the market. Japanese LCCs will have a role in its expansion.
AirAsia Japan has submitted to Tokyo an application for an Air Operator's Certificate to re-enter the Japanese LCC market, its first JV having collapsed in 2013. AirAsia Japan envisions a Mar/Apr-2016 launch from Nagoya, an airport without the heavy competition or curfew AirAsia Japan Mk I encountered at its previous base of Tokyo Narita.
The start-up plans to complete 2016 with six A320s and grow by five aircraft each additional year. In Jul-2015, Jetstar Japan operates 20 A320s, the most of any new LCC, followed by Peach with 16 A320s. AirAsia Japan will be out to show it has learned from past mistakes and can apply its pan-Asian model, with some localisation, in multiple markets.
Japan continues to benefit from this influx of carriers. Domestic growth has slowed to 2%, but Japan saw 92m domestic passengers in its latest reporting year, the highest since 2007. AirAsia Japan will be unique along with Spring Airlines Japan for not being affiliated with ANA or JAL, which directly account for 79% of the market and indirectly for over 90%. Slowing domestic growth has however come with faster 9% outbound international growth. 1H2015 inbound tourism is up a remarkable 46% and Japan will need to set more ambitious targets than 20m visitors in 2020. 2015 could welcome 18 million visitors, up from 10 million in only 2013.
Tokyo Narita on 08-Apr-2015 will open its low-cost carrier terminal, the third Japanese airport to have one, after Osaka Kansai and Okinawa Naha. The LCCT will open with five LCCs: local carriers Jetstar Japan, Vanilla Air and Spring Airlines Japan as well as Jeju Air and Jetstar Airways (Australia). Those five carriers comprise 78% of Narita's LCC movements and 74% of LCC seat capacity. The LCCT will have transfer facilities, the airport tells CAPA at the recent Routes Asia conference in Kunming.
The LCCT is further proof of the dramatic changes in Japan's aviation policy framework in recent years that have supported LCCs and open sky agreements. In 2015, LCCs will account for 18% of Narita's seats, including 67% of domestic seats. Both of these figures are up from almost zero in 2011. Over a third of all LCC seats at Tokyo Narita are international, and this is expected to grow further as Jetstar Japan commences international flights from Narita and Narita welcomes new service from carriers including Tigerair Taiwan and Indonesia AirAsia X.
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.