MIAMI – Yesterday, ZIPAIR Tokyo (ZG), the low-cost subsidiary of Japan Airlines (JL), landed for the first time at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), marking the carrier’s first long-haul mainland U.S. flight.

ZG24 departed at 3:02 PM on Christmas Day from Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT), before landing at 7:20 AM at LAX, logging 9 hours and 18 minutes in the air.

The flight was operated by one of the airline’s three Boeing 787-8s, all of which were originally operated by the airline’s parent company, JL.

Los Angeles is now the fifth destination for the airline, with others including Bangkok, Seoul, Honolulu, and Singapore. The airline will offer flights to Los Angeles three times a week, with an increase to six times weekly between January 14 and March 22, 2022.

The carrier competes with United Airlines (UA), American Airlines (AA), its parent company JL, All Nippon Airways (NH), and Singapore Airlines (SQ) as a fifth-freedom flight.

The Grand Experiment

The creation of ZIPAIR Tokyo represents a completely new concept for JL, which was originally introduced to offer low-cost, long-haul flights to tourists for the 2020 Olympics.

Obviously, plans were changed when COVID hit, crimping the airline’s ability to even begin flights with harsh travel restrictions in place. Utilizing solely Boeing 787-8 aircraft, the airline introduced a new interior concept, with 18 lie-flat seats and 272 standard seats. 

The business class seats are produced by JAMCO and are strikingly similar to business class seats found on full-service carriers. 

The relationship between JL and ZG can be compared to that of SQ and Scoot, even operating similar aircraft types. 

Photo: Melv_L – MACASR. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Competing With ANA

As the competition between ANA and JL heads for the low-cost market, ZG will play an important role in carving out market share for the Japan Airlines Group. 

ANA plans to launch its own medium-to-long-haul low-cost carrier in April of 2022, which we can assume will feature a similar business model to that of ZG, and may even operate Boeing 787s. In the domestic market, ANA owns two low-cost subsidiaries, including Starflyer and Peach Aviation. 

The airlines total a fleet of 45 aircraft, all of which are Airbus A320 family aircraft. Peach has made significant strides in the past years, including the integration of its first Airbus A321LR to its fleet.

It’s worth noting that ANA also owns roughly 16% stakes in both Skymark Airlines and Solaseed Air, two other low-cost carriers in the country. Meanwhile, JL owns stakes in Spring Airlines Japan, a low-cost carrier focused on transporting passengers between China and Japan.

Additionally, JL, along with Qantas (QF), each own 33.3% stakes in Jetstar Japan (GK), which operates 21 Airbus A320 family aircraft. The airline has three Airbus A321LR aircraft on order, aiming to increase its medium-haul network. 

As domestic travel recovers in Japan, low-cost carriers will become vital in the recovery efforts for both JL and ANA.

Featured Image: ZIPAIR Tokyo