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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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Qantas Group defends investments in Jetstar's Asian franchises: 'They are huge opportunities for us'
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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.
Okinawa Naha Airport expects further rapid international growth as it begins to tap into the Southeast Asian market. Okinawa has seen a surge in international traffic, driven by new flights within North Asia, and is optimistic a new charter route to Singapore (operated by Jetstar Asia and SilkAir) will be upgraded to become its first scheduled service to Southeast Asia.
International passenger traffic at Okinawa Naha Airport has nearly tripled since 2011. A new international terminal which opened in Feb-2014 is already approaching capacity but plans are in the works for expansion.
For now the growth is being driven by inbound visitor traffic as Okinawa emerges as a popular tourist attraction. But Okinawa also has a potential role as a LCC transit airport, particularly after a second runway opens and further terminal expansion is pursued. Peach Aviation envisioned an Okinawa hub for Southeast Asian flights but requires a new low-cost terminal.
AirAsia will re-enter Japan in 2015 more experienced about partnership and Japan market needs. The first AirAsia Japan has been a good learning trajectory and the lessons learned from working with majority owner All Nippon Airways have translated to a new partnership profile that avoids a Japan airline JV. AirAsia Japan Mk II – the country’s fifth LCC since 2012 – will have four local investors, with none holding a majority share – and who are more likely to be happy to go along with AirAsia’s low cost philosophy.
One investor, web travel giant Rakuten, establishes the intriguing scenario of entrepreneurs at AirAsia Japan and Skymark trying to take on the ANA and JAL establishment in Asia’s second-largest domestic market where fares are absurdly out of kilter with global practice. Hybrid and LCC penetration was approximately 19% in FY2013, but the new LCCs – with truly low cost bases – still had only a 13% share. There is room still for major change.
AirAsia Japan will re-enter probably to be based at Nagoya, which has no LCC competition (for now) and no curfew, unlike its former base of Tokyo Narita. AirAsia Japan will also be painfully aware of the importance of near-perfect punctuality in Japan and user-friendly website design, where it stumbled the first time around. It will follow a relatively modest time frame for establishment this time too, recognsing the quirky processes – formal and informal – that plague Japan's aviation administration. AirAsia and ANA (with Vanilla) are each reattempting an LCC. If allowed its head, the new AirAsia Japan holds considerable promise.
Jetstar Japan has finally opened its second base at Osaka Kansai, becoming the first Japanese LCC to have a second base. First mooted in mid-2012 for an Oct-2012 launch, Jetstar Japan has had to delay the base primarily for falling on the bad side of Japan's regulator over not following its internal maintenance procedures. Jetstar Japan has been flying to and from Osaka Kansai but had been unable to establish a maintenance and engineering base that would allow for more flexible operations.
Jetstar Japan is growing Osaka Kansai capacity by 53% but only by adding services on its existing four routes. All four destinations – Fukuoka, Naha, Sapporo and Tokyo Narita – have service from Kansai-based Peach. Peach will have a larger presence in all of those markets except Tokyo Narita. Peach also serves other domestic destinations from Kansai and has an international network; Jetstar Japan is only domestic and is Japan's fourth-largest domestic carrier.
The Kansai base is critical to boosting Jetstar Japan's utilisation, which has significantly lagged its main LCC competitor Peach.
The new wave of low-cost carriers in Japan are entering their third year of operations, with Peach Aviation passing the milestone in Mar-2014 and Jetstar Japan doing so in Jul-2014. Along with AirAsia Japan (launched in Aug-2012 and re-launched in Dec-2013 as Vanilla Air) and a number of preceding LCCs, they are not only delivering on Japan's objective to raise passenger figures but are seeing LCCs become a serious force in Japan. In the last nine months of 2013 LCCs carried 17% of passengers in Japan's domestic market while for the first three months of 2014 they offer 24% – nearly one quarter – of available seat capacity, according to OAG.
The three new LCCs – Peach, Jetstar and Vanilla – carried 6% of traffic. While depressed from the AirAsia/Vanilla switch, it marks a start for the first carriers to eliminate all frills, unlike predecessors such as Skymark, which alone carried 7% of traffic. The adoption to LCCs in Japan is slow, and there were some early painful lessons, but growth is near-guaranteed. Jetstar Japan added nearly as many seats as JAL while Peach added nearly as many seats as ANA. Meanwhile ANA and JAL project long-term decreases in Japan's domestic market. Further, Jun-2014 sees the launch of Spring Airlines Japan with domestic flights and in the future international services, mainly to China. This is the first (but will not be the last) international JV for China's Spring Airlines. AirAsia is also looking to re-enter. However, five new LCCs plus three existing mean excessive market fragmentation.
Although it may challenge the epithet that airlines never die in Japan, consolidation is in order. But more importantly, until prevailing legacy attitudes are redirected towards supporting economic expansion goals, LCCs will continue to labour under unnecessary handicaps.