By Winston Shek
Japanese Low-Cost Carrier ZIPAIR Launches Flights to Los Angeles
One of Japan’s newest low-cost carriers, ZIPAIR, announced its first flight to the United States, Los Angeles. The subsidiary carrier for Japan Airlines will grow to a total of five destinations, operating three-weekly flights from Tokyo Narita on its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.
Its’ flights will depart as ZIPAIR Flight 24 from Tokyo’s Narita Airport at 2:45 P.M. and arrive in Los Angeles at 7:40 A.M. On the return flight, ZIPAIR Flight 23 departs Los Angeles at 9:40 A.M. and arrives in Tokyo-Narita at 2:25 P.M. the next day. Due to the start of daylight savings time in March, the flight into Los Angeles arrives at 8:40 A.M. and departs at 10:40 A.M.
These flights are scheduled through March 26, 2022, with the possibility of increased frequencies on the Tokyo Narita to Los Angeles or the opening of new transpacific routes to the West Coast afterward, per Kyodo Japan.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, ZIPAIR will fly its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner from Tokyo-Narita to Los Angeles. Its’ cabin features 290 seats, including 18 business class reverse herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 configuration and 272 economy seats in a 3-3-3 configuration. In addition, the airline offers complimentary WiFi, but no in-flight entertainment system.
On the flight, ZIPAIR will utilize the VeriFLY Digital Health Passport app to process COVID-19 vaccination information, similarly to its parent company Japan Airlines’ U.S. to Japan services.
In a statement, Shingo Nishida, President of ZIPAIR Tokyo, said: “Ever since the introduction of ZIPAIR, one of our key goals was to establish a flight across the Pacific and I could not be prouder to stand here today to announce the launch of our Los Angeles route. Our mission is to define a new standard in the air travel industry by offering a unique low-cost business model on long-haul international routes. ZIPAIR features a NEW BASIC travel experience by offering personalized services during the flight, which will essentially shorten the sense of time. We are eager to welcome travelers in the U.S. to personally experience this truly new concept in air travel.”
ZIPAIR will provide the only long-haul low-cost carrier option from Los Angeles to Japan. For example, on the flight from Tokyo-Narita to Los Angeles, ZIPAIR will face competition from its parent company Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways – ANA, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines. All carriers except United Airlines operate a Boeing 777-300ER on the route; United Airlines operates a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
The move marks ZIPAIR’s second destination in the United States and the Tokyo-based airline’s fifth destination. The low-cost carrier launched its first flights to Honolulu in December 2020 once a week, now operating up to five weekly flights this winter. In addition to Honolulu, ZIPAIR operates flights to Bangkok, Singapore and Seoul.
To operate to these destinations, ZIPAIR leases two Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners from its parent Japan Airlines and is currently in the process of adding a third to its fleet. By 2024, the carrier plans to have 10 Boeing 787s.
ZIPAIR was launched in 2018 as Japan Airlines’ attempt at a low-cost long-haul subsidiary to defend against low-cost carriers like AirAsiaX launching new long-haul services from Japan. At the time, AirAsiaX operated a flight from Osaka, Japan to Honolulu, Hawaii using its A330-300. Initially, the Tokyo-based low-cost carrier aimed to launch services in the middle of 2020 to Bangkok and Seoul, but these plans were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, ZIPAIR operated cargo flights to both destinations from April 2020 until October 2020, when the low-cost carrier launched its first passenger flights to Seoul.
ZIPAIR is not Japan Airlines’ only low-cost venture as it seeks to turn Tokyo-Narita into its’ premier low-cost hub. In April 2021, Japan Airlines acquired a majority stake in Spring Airlines Japan – the Japanese subsidiary of Chinese low-cost carrier Spring Airlines – to expand its low-cost network from Tokyo-Narita to China. The subsidiary of Japan Airlines is eyeing pent-up traffic between China and Japan at the end of the pandemic and potential expansion.
Additionally, Japan Airlines owns Jetstar Japan, which primarily focuses on domestic low-cost operations. With all three of these carriers, Japan Airlines hopes to utilize ZIPAIR to “grow by attracting new customers that JAL, the conventional full-service carrier, has not been able to reach.”