Japan’s Zipair to woo corporates with lie flat business class product

Zipair will be offering Japanese corporates a new low cost business class product when the long haul LCC start-up launches in 2020. The new Japan Airlines (JAL) subsidiary has selected a two-class configuration for its Boeing 787-8s featuring lie flat herringbone business class seats in six abreast configuration.


Highlights:

  • Japanese LCC start-up Zipair plans to configure its 787-8s with lie flat herringbone style business class seats in a 2x2x2 configuration;
  • Zipair will become only the fifth widebody LCC with lie flat seats and the first 787-8 LCC operator with lie flat seats;
  • Zipair plans to commence operations in 2020 with flights from Tokyo Narita to Bangkok and Seoul and add long haul flights to North America in 2021.

It will become only the fifth LCC with a lie flat business class product. There are around 20 LCCs currently operating scheduled services with widebody aircraft; only Malaysia’s AirAsia X, Thai AirAsia X, Brazil’s Azul and Canada’s WestJet offer a lie-flat product.  The AirAsia X Group uses A330-300s (and soon A330-900neos), Azul operates A330-200s and WestJet has 787-9s. WestJet also operates 767-300ERs but only its newly delivered 787-9s have a lie flat product.

Zipair plans to commence operations in 2020 using two 787-8s operating from Tokyo Narita to Bangkok and Seoul. The airline plans to launch North America flights from Narita in 2021 as it adds another two 787s. Long haul flights across the Pacific are not possible in the first year as it will take several months of flying within Asia to secure ETOPS approval.

CHART – Zipair will introduce two 787s in 2020, plans to double its fleet in 2021 and then add an additional two aircraft each year to grow to ten in 2024Source: Zipair presentation at CAPA LCCs in North Asia Summit, 25-Jun-2019

Zipair’s business plan includes two additional aircraft every year but a base has not yet been decided for 2022 and beyond. While the first two routes are within Asia, the airline’s target area is long haul routes, according a Zipair presentation at the recent CAPA LCCs in North Asia Summit in Cebu. It expects its 787-8s to have 30% to 50% more seats than 787-8s operated by full service airlines.

Norwegian, Jetstar Airways and Scoot are the only LCCs currently operating 787-8s. All three airlines have premium economy style recliner seats with a 2x3x2 configuration in their business cabins, providing a product which will be inferior to Zipair’s planned business class product.

Scoot’s 787-8s have 329 and 335 seats (the slightly smaller 329-seat configuration includes crew bunks and is used on long-haul routes). Jetstar’s 787-8s also have 335 seats while Norwegian’s 787-8s have only 290 seats as it has a larger premium cabin (32 seats compared to 18 or 21 for Scoot and 21 for Jetstar). In comparison, JAL configures its 787-8s with 161, 186 and 206 seats. The 161-seat configuration is the lowest density among 787-8 operators.

Zipair is focused on the point to point market and is not planning to offer interlining or baggage transfer. However, some cooperation with Jetstar Japan is envisioned to provide Zipair passengers the opportunity to connect with domestic and regional international flights operated by Jetstar Japan.

JAL and Qantas each owns a 30% stake in Jetstar Japan. Qantas owns 100% of Australia-based Jetstar Airways, which serves Narita from Cairns and Gold Coast. As CAPA highlighted in a previous analysis report, Zipair does not intend to serve Australia. The two airlines are not able to coordinate route planning or pursue joint sales without anti-trust immunity.

SEE RELATED REPORT: Zipair: a defensive move by JAL as AirAsia X expands in Japan

The Blue Swan Daily reported earlier this year on the development of Zipair and noted at that time that it would not decide on its product until later, but that a two-class configuration was planned. “Having a business or premium economy product at the front should help enable Zipair to attract corporate customers – both on its initial routes and on new long-haul routes,” it predicted.