Recognizing a changing market, Japan Airlines will launch a low-cost airline for medium- and long-haul flights.
While low-cost carriers have gained traction around the world, Japan has been a holdout. It’s not that there are no low-cost options in Japan, but rather that the Japanese preference for full-service airlines and high-speed rail has not produced the sort of appetite for cheap travel we’ve seen elsewhere. JAL, however, sees untapped potential.
The idea of the new airline not to balkanize JAL, but to complement it. That may all always be the goal of a low-cost subdivision, but JAL has no plans to cut back on its full service product.
The new, yet unnamed, low-cost-carrier will service destinations in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. It will be based in Tokyo Narita and commence flying in 2020 with two Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners.
JAL already partners with Qantas to offer Jetstar Japan and the new low-cost airline will link travelers with Jetstar shorthaul flights within Japan and the region.
JAL’s announcement of its own low-cost airline may be more a reaction to ANA than a bold new business plan. ANA already has a low-cost Vanilla Air subdivision and is building up another LCC called Peach, which operates at 19 airports using a fleet of 19 Airbus A320s. Vanilla Air and Peach will merge into a single airline and over 50 additional aircraft are on order, with plans to serve at least 50 destinations. Peach will only operate short and medium-haul destinations, though, giving JAL an opening. The great JAL vs. ANA battle will soon open a new front: the battle for LCC dominance.