Several new low cost carriers (LCCs) will start flying to Hokkaido this year. Peach Aviation, Jetstar Japan, and Air Asia Japan have all announced launch dates for their domestic routes between March and December 2012, as well as plans to connect to international destinations in the near future. Stiff competition is also expected from recent Korean startup "Jin Air" and the soon to launch Singapore air LCC “Scoot”, but an exact launch date has not yet been announced by either.
An intense price war is predicted with so many new start-ups all promising the lowest fares. Peach Aviation is first up to bat with on-line tickets already sold for their debut flights in March, with Jetstar Japan, and Air Asia Japan expected to follow shortly.
Osaka based PEACH is the first home-grown LCC in Japan, and stands for: Pan-Asia, Energetic, Affordable, Cute&Cool, Happy. Peach Aviation CEO Shinichi Inoue promises to provide “safe, low cost travel 365 days of the year, making air travel easier and more accessible. Our airline will also reflect the smart sophistication that has come to represent the words Cool Japan.” Peach Aviation officials have already boasted, that soon, visitors from Honshu could fly to Chitose for prices equivalent to one “Hakuho peach sold at Kinosato farmers market.”
CEO Bruce Buchanan of competitor Jetstar Group says “we will beat any competitor’s fare by 10 per cent at the time of booking. It shows our absolute commitment to offering the lowest fares. This guarantee means we won’t be beaten on price in what will be a very competitive market, and it is one of the ways we intend to be Japan’s number one LCC.”
ANA President and CEO Shinchiro Ito, who teamed up with Air Asia to create new LCC Air Asia Japan, plans to make the fares of the Tokyo based carrier about half or a third of the price ANA currently charges. He promises “the lowest airfare in the market” and adds “we will fight very hard to ensure that we do that.” Proof of this company’s competitive nature can be seen when Air Asia launched a new destination with similar distances as Tokyo-Sapporo, and the fare was featured for as low as $4.
Peach, Jetstar Japan, and Air Asia Japan are all planning to service many airports across Japan, but New Chitose/Sapporo is one of the main target service routes. All three companies are planning to offer several daily flights to/from New Chitose.
Advance purchase flights from Tokyo to Sapporo can already be purchased for ¥7,800 if purchased more than 21 days in advance by existing Japanese budget airlines. It’s a fair bet to say that this will likely become the new standard price, with advance purchase prices offered at even lower prices. The launch of the new LCCs in Japan will also have significant impact on the Niseko market.
Niseko and the rest of Hokkaido will become a more attractive destination for Tokyo and Osaka based travellers. One of the most popular skiing destinations on Honshu is Nagano’s resort Hakuba, but getting there from Tokyo can be time-consuming and difficult. These new flights combined with the fast and frequent airport shuttles could mean getting from Tokyo to Niseko will be more convenient than getting from Tokyo to Hakuba. This could also mean that Niseko will become a busy destination in all four seasons.
International travellers can expect less hassle with baggage check-ins and transfers. With the ability to check baggage all the way through to Niseko from your departure airport, this will eliminate dealing with the shuttle between Tokyo’s international airport Narita, and its domestic airport Haneda.
Powderlife.com will bring you updates in the coming weeks.