MIAMI — All Nippon Airways (NH) has won creditor backing to lead a turnaround of troubled Japanese budget carrier Skymark Airlines (BC), defeating a proposal from Delta Air Lines (DL) announced last July.

According to Reuters, more than 170 creditors voted in two rounds. All Nippon Airways, which offered to buy 16.5 percent stake in Skymark, won a majority of votes in each round, creditors said. The result is pending to be approved by Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau and other stakeholders, including Skymark’s financial backer, private equity firm Integral Corp.

The decision grants Japan’s largest carrier the access to BC’s 36 landing slots at Tokyo Haneda Airport, thus consolidating its domestic presence. For Delta, this is a lost opportunity to gain a domestic access to Japan, a country that does not count with a SkyTeam airline partner.

Masaru Morimoto, Delta’s managing director of Japan, thanked Skymark’s creditors and business partners for their support of the Creditors’ Rehabilitation Plan. The company said while Delta will not be able to support Skymark as a sponsor airline, Delta’s desire remains for Skymark to recover as one of the three largest Japanese airlines. “Delta’s strategy in Japan remains strong and the company will continue its ongoing focus on  improving the customer experience and network offerings,” he said.

Skymark’s expansion plans contemplated the operation of a fleet of up to six Airbus A380 aircraft intended for an international expansion. As the delivery date neared, the airline was unable to keep up with the payments and opted for bankruptcy last January 28, with total liabilities of 71.09 billion yen ($568 million). Largest creditors are leasing firms GECAS ($125.1 million) and AWAS Aviation ($116.5 million).

(Credits: Airbus S.A.S)
(Credits: Airbus S.A.S)

ANA China Network Expansion in Sight

Besides the Skymark bid today, ANA has announced a new route from Haneda to Guangzhou, and will increase, as of next October, to a double daily service to Beijing and Shanghai, the latter subject to the approval of the corresponding authorities.

Adding further frequencies in the China – Japan routes will put ANA in a avant garde position to any potential competition with Delta through China Eastern Airlines (MU). Last July, DL secured a 3.55% stake in China Eastern Airlines in a move to access to the fast-growing Chinese market.