AirAsia Zest eyes flights to Japan

AirAsia Zest has expressed interest in launching flights to Japan, possibly by the third quarter of the current year. Chief Executive Officer Marianne Hontiveros mentioned Narita (Tokyo) and Osaka as potential destinations.

An AirAsia Philippines Airbus A320 being serviced prior to departure. Photo from Rappler.

Hontiveros explained:

We've applied for [flight rights to] Japan with the CAB [Civil Aeronautics Board].

Following the approval of AirAsia Zest's application, Hontiveros said that flights may begin as early as June or July this year. 

Increased air travel between Philippines and Japan

This development comes on the heels of a significant expansion in air travel between the Philippines and Japan.

After successful air talks, flight frequencies between Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and Narita International Airport surged to 400 weekly flights (80,000 seats).

The agreement also opened up 14 weekly flights between NAIA and Tokyo's Haneda Airport.

Included in the agreement is that unlimited traffic is permitted between secondary Philippine airports and Haneda.

Competition heats up

Other airlines are seizing the opportunity for expansion in the Japanese market. Tigerair Philippines (now part of Cebu Pacific Air) had previously announced plans to fly to Tokyo and Incheon (South Korea). Additionally, both Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have announced increased flights to Japan.

According to the aviation think tank Centre for Aviation (CAPA), the Philippines-Japan route was "under-served over the last five years" due to capacity restrictions imposed by the Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau. However, recent agreements have significantly expanded opportunities for airlines from both countries.