Asian regional carrier Japan Air Commuter has launched scheduled passenger flights with the ATR 42-600. The airline inaugurated operations with the turboprop aircraft on the morning of April 26, 2017 between Kagoshima and Yakushima. The aircraft then performed three flights, from Yakushima to Kagoshima, from Kagoshima to Okinoerabu, and back to Kagoshima.
The airline, a subsidiary of Japan Airlines, is currently undertaking an important fleet modernisation process which will see it receive a total of nine ATR turboprops over the next three years for operation both on main routes and connections from and to smaller islands and communities across the country.
Japan is a mature, yet dynamic, market, with more than 100 regional aircraft and an average fleet age of over 10 years. Japanese airlines are expected to renew and expand their regional fleets in the years to come in order to face an increasing tourism across the country within the next years.
The country is preparing for a huge influx of tourists. Its government hopes to welcome 40 million visitors by 2020. In addition to hosting major events such as the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympic Games in 2020, Japan is promoting the natural beauty and cultural heritage of its regions.
“The unrivalled airport accessibility of the ATRs, along with their high standards of safety and comfort, make the ATR -600s the perfect solution for our mission: connecting small communities and providing high-quality air service across the country,” said Hiroki Kato, president, Japan Air Commuter.
Founded in 1983, Japan Air Commuter is majority controlled by Japan Airlines (60 per cent equity) with the remaining shares jointly held by the 12 Municipalities of the Amami Islands of Kagoshima, Kyushu. Based at Kagoshima Airport, it operates 19 aircraft, around 100 daily departures on 23 routes, and serves as the essential public air transport means for 1.6 million passengers annually between the Amami islands and Western Japan.
The 50-seater ATR 42-600 is well suited to this role, delivering the high standard of comfort expected on one of the mature markets in the world, while offering operational efficiency over both short and longer stage lengths. Turboprop aircraft come into their own over shorter routes and as around 35 per cent of Japanese domestic routes are below 300 nm, they are optimally suited to further develop regional connectivity, generate business opportunities and strengthen community links.