JAL's new budget subsidiary ZIPAIR Tokyo postpones launch, files for flights to the US

Aviation Updates Philippines – Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Japan Airlines' budget long-haul subsidiary ZIPAIR Tokyo has postponed its maiden flight. Despite that, it has filed for flight rights to the United States.

In a statement on April 9, ZIPAIR Tokyo announced it will postpone its maiden flight between Tokyo-Narita and Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi initially scheduled for May 14. No new date for the route's launch has been announced.

Regarding the decision, ZIPAIR stated: “Although the postponement of ZIPAIR Tokyo may come as a disappointment, the safety and the well-being of our customers and employees are a top priority. We would like to ask for your understanding during this unprecedented time and we look forward to seeing you onboard in the near future.”

While the Bangkok service was postponed, the airline's second planned route to Seoul-Incheon is still scheduled to begin on July 1.

US Flight Plans 

While global travel demand has sharply declined due to the ongoing pandemic, ZIPAIR Tokyo is still proceeding with plans to launch its first flights to North America starting with Hawaii.

In a filing to the United States Department of Transportation dated April 20, the new budget carrier filed for a foreign air carrier permit for flight rights between Japan and the United States. The airline named Honolulu, Hawaii as the first US destination, with plans for daily flights between Tokyo-Narita and Honolulu to start around the IATA winter 2020 season.

The IATA winter 2020 season is set to begin on October 25.

The Japan-Hawaii market has the most flights between the United States and Japan. In the highly competitive market, several airlines including Japan Airlines (JAL), All Nippon Airways (ANA), Hawaiian, Delta, and United operate flights between Japan and Hawaii from Japanese cities including Tokyo (Haneda/Narita), Osaka, Nagoya, and Sapporo.

Along with the Japanese and US-based carriers, AirAsia X has operated flights between Osaka-Kansai and Honolulu along with Korean Air's fifth freedom flight from Tokyo-Narita.

ZIPAIR Tokyo and Japan Airlines (JAL)

First announced by Japan Airlines in February 2019, ZIPAIR Tokyo is JAL's fully owned low cost airline for medium and long-haul routes. From Tokyo-Narita, it will operate an initial fleet of 2 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners leased from JAL with a configuration of around 290 seats –100 seats more than JAL's typical 787 seating capacity of around 190.

ZIPAIR Tokyo is not JAL's first venture involving budget carriers. It also has a majority 50% stake in Jetstar Japan of which Qantas-owned Jestar has a 33% stake.