Japan’s ANA Holdings has revealed the branding for its new medium-haul carrier AirJapan, which will launch a year later than planned as international passenger demand continues to lag.
The group said the unit would begin flying in late 2023 or early 2024, offering service to Asia-Pacific destinations from its base at Tokyo Narita (NRT). Flights will be on board Boeing 787-8s in a two-class cabin configuration.
“By focusing on medium-haul international routes, the ANA Group will be better equipped to meet emerging trends for international travel at a competitive price,” said Hideki Mineguchi, president of AirJapan.
AirJapan will be positioned between the group’s full-service All Nippon Airways and LCC Peach Aviation, vowing to combine “the best aspects” of each business model. ANA is yet to clarify whether AirJapan will see its existing charter airline operation Air Japan Co. Ltd evolve into the medium-haul carrier or if an entirely new entity will be created.
Details of the new unit were first revealed in October 2020 as part of a group-wide transformation plan. Although ANA hoped to launch the carrier during the 2022 fiscal year, the recovery of international traffic in the Asia-Pacific region has been slow, leading to the plans being delayed.
According to the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, the region’s airlines carried just 16.7 million international passengers in 2021—down by 95.6% on pre-pandemic levels. However, there are positive signs that markets are steadily beginning to reopen. For example Bali this week has started welcoming foreign tourists once again.
ANA said AirJapan’s network is still under consideration as it continues to “closely monitoring trends in the recovery of demand for international flights.” However, Mineguchi expects the brand to operate routes that may not be profitable under All Nippon Airways’ cost structure.
The new airline is expected to fly routes to destinations more than four hours away from Tokyo Narita, avoiding short-haul points served by Peach. Although Peach is currently operating solely a domestic network in Japan, prior to the pandemic the LCC served a number of international destinations including Seoul Incheon (ICN) and Shanghai Pudong (PVG).
Looking specifically at medium-haul destinations between 1,500 km and 4,000 km away from Tokyo, Sabre Market Intelligence data shows that the biggest O&D market in 2019 was Taipei with 4.1 million two-way passengers. Shanghai was the second largest with 2.8 million two-way passengers, followed by Hong Kong with 2.5 million, Beijing with 1.3 million and Manila with 1.1 million.
OAG data shows that All Nippon Airways currently serves six of the top 10 O&D markets—Guangzhou, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Manila, Shanghai and Taipei—while flights to Beijing are scheduled to resume in July. Pre-pandemic, Peach also served Kaohsiung, leaving only Guam and Cebu unserved by ANA carriers.
Other medium-haul destinations with large O&D traffic flows that are unserved by ANA carriers from Tokyo include Routes Asia 2022 host Da Nang in Vietnam (187,502 two-way passengers in 2019); Fuzhou in China (169,161 passengers); and Macau (104,384 passengers). AirJapan could also look further afield to some longer-haul markets, such as Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.