Budget Airlines FINALLY Making a Dent in Japan

Posted By Trav

For long-suffering travelers in Japan, forced to take $170 train rides between Tokyo and Osaka while dreaming of the $20 flights their neighbors in SE Asia were privy to, good news has finally come.  Japan is finally opening up to budget airlines (also referred to as low-cost carriers), and in a big way.

To the rest of the world, budget airlines are hardly a new or novel concept.  And while Japan seems like a perfect environment for budget airlines, with its huge population and their love for quick travel, it has constantly been tied up in bureaucratic red tape and governmental regulations, leaving it as one of the last bastions not served by true budget airlines.  The lack of competition has meant that ANA (All Nippon Airways) and JAL (Japan Airlines) have had a stranglehold on the market, allowing them to ratchet up short-haul domestic flights to incredibly high prices.  Now, that’s about to change.

On March 1st, Peach Airlines launched its inaugural flight, from Osaka’s Kansai Airport to Sapporo’s Chitose Airport, officially ushering in the low cost carrier era in Japan.  Two of the biggest players in the budget airline industry, Air Asia and Jetstar, are poised to follow suit, with Jetstar Japan scheduled to launch July 3rd and Air Asia Japan in sometime in August (although there is speculation that they will move this up to beat Jetstar Japan).

All three airlines will start with strictly domestic flights but have plans to quickly add shorter international routes to the fold.  Peach is on the record as saying that their first international flight, between Kansai and Seoul Incheon, will fly May 8th.  July 1st will see their first Kansai-Hong Kong flight depart and on September 30th they plan to launch a route from Kansai to Taipei.

Air Asia Japan has announced that it will add two international routes to South Korea by October 2012 (Seoul and Busan) and plans on adding in longer routes to Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore in 2013, while Jetstar Japan has been more coy, simply saying that they plan to fly to “key Asian cities in 2013”.

And while the quality of the product has yet to be determined (although I’m optimistic, with Jetstar and Air Asia both being highly reputable), any budget airline news is good news to travelers who wish to travel to and from Japan.  May the days of super-expensive Shinkansen rides and price-gouged tickets from ANA and JAL be thing of the past!

I’ve included a short snapshot of each airline below, as well as some links for further reading.

Peach Airlines

Owned by:  ANA and a Hong Kong Investment Group

Launch Date:  March 1

Main hub:  Osaka’s Kansai Airport

Domestic flights to: (all flights leave from Kansai)

March 1st– Fukuoka and Sapporo (New Chitose Airport)

March 25th– Nagasaki

April 1st– Kagoshima

International flights to: (all flights leave from Kansai)

May 8th– Seoul (Incheon)

July 1st– Hong Kong

Sept. 30th– Taipei

Website:  http://www.flypeach.com/home.aspx

Read more about Peach:

Malaysian Insider Article:  Kansai to offer new low-cost carrier terminal

Peach Wiki Page


Air Asia Japan

Owned by:  ANA and Air Asia

Launch date:  August 2012

Main hub:  Tokyo’s Narita Airport

Domestic flights to:  (tentative; all leave from Narita)

August 2012:  Fukuoka, Okinawa, Sapporo (Chitose)

International flights to:  (tentative; all leave from Narita)

October 2012:  Busan, Seoul (Incheon)

2013:  Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore

Read more about Air Asia Japan:

Air Asia Japan’s Wiki Page 


Jetstar Japan

Owned by:  Qantas (parent company of Jetstar), JAL, Mitsubishi

Launch date:  July 3, 2012

Main hub:  Tokyo’s Narita Airport

Domestic flights between: (*Jetstar will not fly only to and from the main hub like Peach and Air Asia Japan but will have a network connecting all five cities*)

July 2012:  Osaka, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Okinawa, Tokyo

International flights to:

2013:  “key Asian cities”

Read more about Jetstar Japan:

AFP:  Jetstar Japan to Start Domestic Flights in July

Jetstar Japan Wiki Page


Further reading (even more goodies):

AviationPros.com:  Japan’s Budget Airlines Spread Their Wings

The Star Online:  Air Asia-Jetstar Competition Intensifies

The Daily Yomiuri:  Low-cost Airfare Era to Begin This Year


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