Photo: Melv_L - MACASR via Wikimedia

MIAMI – ZIPAIR (ZG) announced that it will begin one-way passenger operations between Bangkok (BKK) and Tokyo (NRT) by November 2020. 

The service is to begin on October 29th, with flights five times weekly. ZG will be using a “one-way” model due to the restrictions on any international passenger service by the Thai government. Flights departing Tokyo will be an all-cargo flight, while only one of the six total flights from Thailand to Japan will be cargo-only.

ZG, the long haul, low-cost subsidiary of Japan Airlines (JL) began operations in June, operating cargo-only flights to Bangkok. The airline has begun both their Bangkok and Seoul operations as cargo-only operations in order to prove the viability of the new venture.

On September 12, the airline inaugurated cargo-only service to Seoul, South Korea. Three days ago, the airline began passenger service from Narita International Airport (NRT) to Seoul Incheon Airport (INC). 

Photo: ZIPAIR Tokyo

The Japanese LCC Market, Explained

In recent years, the low-cost strategy has taken a substantial hold on the Japanese market. This is due to the increase in travel among Asians in Japan. 

Shinkansen (high speed bullet trains) and ANA/JAL operate full service flights between primary destinations within Japan. In order to attract a more diverse tourist population, low cost carriers have sprung in Japan after seeing the success of the same model across Asia. 

While All Nippon Airways (NH) and JL compete in what is effectively a duopoly, their various subsidiaries have explored various areas of the Japanese market. JL has entered the low-cost market two-fold. The airline started its new venture, ZIPAIR Tokyo this past year, and also owns a 33.3% stake in Jetstar Japan (GK). 

Jetstar Japan is a subsidiary of Japan Airlines and Qantas. The airline also codeshares with American Airlines (AA), making it a Oneworld Alliance stronghold. 

ZIPAIR, using a fleet of Boeing 787 aircraft, will have the flexibility to choose from a broad range of international destinations.

All Nippon Airways Boeing 737-881 JA55AN. Photo: Kochan Kleps

Right Airline, Wrong Time

ZIPAIR has been hit with numerous obstacles on its path to begin consistent passenger operations. Although the airline was planned with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in mind, the delay in the games and the onslaught of travel restrictions due to COVID-19 forced the carrier to change its development timeline and business model quickly. 

While East Asian countries have been able to effectively contain the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions put in place by various governments have forced ZG to postpone the long-anticipated launch of passenger operations.

Both Seoul and Bangkok operations were postponed, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason. The airline originally forecasted profitability within three years, but has not been updated since the pandemic. 

Featured Photo: Melv_L – MACASR via Wikimedia