Leisure destinations Okinawa and Sapporo will join Taiwanese carrier Starlux Airlines’ network from October as Japan prepares to further relax travel restrictions for tourists visiting the country.
It is understood that the Japanese government is considering removing the daily entry limit for arrivals, as well as ending visa and package tour requirements for international visitors. At the present time, the daily arrival cap is set at 50,000, while tourists must book through a travel agency.
Starlux said it expects a post-pandemic “tourism boom” once the restrictions are lifted, giving it the confidence to expand its Japanese network with two new routes and additional frequencies.
From Oct. 28, the carrier plans to begin flying from Taipei Taiwan Taoyuan (TPE) to both Okinawa (OKA) and Sapporo New Chitose (CTS). Each route will be served daily using Airbus A321neo aircraft.
Okinawa, a Japanese prefecture comprising more than 150 islands in the East China Sea between Taiwan and Japan’s mainland, is a popular tourist destination known for its subtropical climate and sandy beaches. Starlux will become the third carrier offering TPE-OKA flights; Tigerair Taiwan currently provides daily service and EVA Airways is set to resume double-daily operations in late October.
Data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser shows that by early November, there will be 11,744 two-way weekly seats available between Taipei and Okinawa, compared with almost 27,000 at the same week in 2019. StarLux will have a 22.4% capacity share of the market on the 653-km (353-nm) route.
Sapporo is the capital of the mountainous northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and a popular winter resort destination. Tigerair Taiwan and China Airlines provide 5X-weekly and 1X-weekly TPE-CTS flights at this time, but competition is set to intensify from the start of the northern winter 2022/23 season.
Alongside Starlux’s entry to the market, EVA Airways and Scoot will resume operations on the route after an absence of more than two-and-a-half years because of the pandemic. EVA Airways plans to restore daily service using A330-300s and Scoot will offer three flights per week onboard Boeing 787-8s.
In total, there will be about 11,400 two-way weekly seats available between Taipei and Sapporo by November—about 67% of the capacity offered on the 2,712-km (1,464-nm) sector in 2019.
The launch of the new nonstop Starlux routes comes as the airline readies to increase frequencies on its three existing services to Japan, a country it has served since December 2020. Flights from TPE to Fukuoka (FUK), Osaka Kansai (KIX) and Tokyo Narita (NRT) will grow from 2X-weekly, 4X-weekly and 3X-weekly respectively to daily from late October.
In addition, the carrier has confirmed that the Vietnamese leisure destination Da Nang (DAD)—the host of Routes Asia 2022—will return to its network in October. Starlux last operated TPE-DAD in March 2020 and plans to resume daily service on Oct. 28 using A321neos.
Taipei-based Starlux launched commercial operations in January 2020 and has a fleet of nine A321neos and three A330-900s. Five more A330-900s and 17 A350-900s are on order, which are expected to facilitate the airline’s expansion to North America and Europe.