Japan Airlines launched recently their newest innovation into the Japanese aviation market. Called ZIPAir Tokyo, JAL is launching a low cost carrier. The airline will operate as a true low cost carrier, think NokScoot, and will fly to destinations in Asia. Similar to Scoot, it has the intention to fly to Europe, and expand to North America in the future.


When To Expect ZIPAir Tokyo to Star Flying

The initial plans for the airline were unveiled last year. ZIPAir plans to be ready and flying for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, so expect it to begin flying by early 2020. According to Business Traveller, the airline will begin recruiting crew in April, with aircraft and training in the subsequent months.


What Aircraft Will ZIPAir Tokyo Fly?

Initially, the airline will lease 787-8s from JAL. These aircraft are not very densely configured, as JAL has one of the most spacious configurations on their 787-8s. I suspect, as does Lucky from OMAAT, that the aircraft will be reconfigured. With the reconfiguration, expect to see most of the spaciousness gone. More on that next.

After the initial batch of 787s, the airline will continue to lease from JAL, or place an order of its own. The airline will keep with Scoot’s model of a single wide body type, and likely order 787-8s and 787-9s to fit demand. I do not expect them to order 787-10s in the first years, since this could lead to capacity issues.

JAL 787-8

JAL 787-8

First Destinations

The first destinations that ZIPAir Tokyo will fly are Bangkok BKK and Seoul ICN. This seems surprising, since JAL already flies to both airports from Tokyo Narita. The ICN flight is codeshare with Korean Air, but JAL uses its own aircraft to fly to BKK. These are the only destinations reported so far, and I suspect that the airline will eventually add domestic destinations in Japan, as well as more regional and intercontinental destinations.


Future Destinations, What I Expect

ZIPAir Tokyo seems to be more of a leisure airline as well as a low cost carrier. The airline will be targeting cost-conscious travelers from Japan and eventually from other destinations. Given how popular Hawaii is for Japanese travelers, I can suspect flights to the archipelago to launch eventually. Also in the United States, ZIPAir might launch flights to leisure destinations. Among these, you could find Las Vegas, Vancouver, Oakland or San Francisco, and Portland. In Europe, I can see the airline launching flights to places were JAL does not fly yet. I am thinking Helsinki, which is a major connecting point for Asian travelers thanks to Finnair. Beyond Helsinki, I can see other less premium destinations such as Moscow, Madrid, and Rome. As far as Australia and Oceania go, ZIPAir could launch flights to Melbourne, Auckland and smaller Oceania islands. This is all in addition to multiple other Asian destinations that they will add sooner.


What to Expect on Board

I can only speculate how ZIPAir will compare to JAL. The airline will undoubtedly have the usual Japanese service. However, I don’t expect the airline to be premium in any way. I am thinking about how Scoot operates in Singapore, and they have a pretty low frills operation. I flew them recently (review coming soon) and my experience was overall good. You get what you pay for, and if you fly in economy, you get very little besides a seat and transportation. In premium economy, if there is one, you get a meal and limited beverages. Scoot is not as “premium” as Norwegian, but more like a glorified Spirit Airlines. I think, and I hope, that ZIPAir will mirror Norwegian more than Scoot, since this would be a competitive point vs. Scoot in the region.

Scoot 787

Scoot 787

Landing Thoughts

I am excited to see JAL move into the international low cost market. The airline offers one of the best onboard products in the world, and I want to see how they address low cost travel. I don’t expect it to be as premium as Norwegian’s international operation, but more along the lines of Scoot. If I am wrong, and I hope I am, ZIPAir Tokyo could be a game changer for the Japanese aviation market. Only time will tell how it shapes out, stay tuned for more details as they come out!


What do you think? How will ZIPAir look like? Do you expect them to be more like Scoot, Norwegian or JetStar? Would you fly them to Tokyo and beyond? Let us know!


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Information and images from:

Business Traveller

NHK News