TOKYO, March 4 — The first airport terminal in Japan specifically designed to meet the needs of low-cost passengers is close to completion as Japan’s newest airline Peach Aviation takes off for Japanese and international destinations.
The first aircraft operated by Peach Aviation, Japan’s newest airline which is partly owned by domestic giant All Nippon Airways, took off from Kansai International on Thursday. Initially, its aircraft will link Japan’s second city with Sapporo Shin-Chitose Airport on the nation’s most northerly main island of Hokkaido, as well as Fukuoka, Nagasaki and Kagoshima, which are all on the southern island of Kyushu.
All those destinations are linked by Japan’s existing network of excellent “bullet trains,” but flying will significantly reduce the tame it takes to travel to Hokkaido and Kyushu from Osaka.
Prices are also significantly cheaper than the same journeys with other airlines. A one-way flight with Peach from Kansai to Fukuoka ranges from ¥3,780 (RM138.70) to ¥11,780, far cheaper than the ¥10,000 to ¥41,300 that All Nippon Airways charges. The bullet train between the two cities also costs around ¥14,000.
International flights are due to start on May 1, when the first Peach jet will land at Incheon International Airport, with routes linking Osaka with both Taipei and Hong Kong scheduled for July.
Peach is expanding its services aggressively as it looks to get ahead of the competition. The Asia-Pacific region lags far behind the markets of North America and Europe for cut-price airlines and is considered ripe for budget carriers.
Soon such budget carriers will find a home in a new terminal — currently under construction, part of Kansai International Airport, which is built in a man-made island off Osaka, with low-cost carrier Peach Aviation scheduled to make extensive use of the facility.
The terminal is due to be completed by the late summer and will cater to both international and domestic passengers.
It will also be significantly different from other facilities at Japanese airport. Critics have long charged that operators are failing to make the most of the retail opportunities in terminals here, with shopping and dining outlets very limited in comparison with other airports in the region and around the world.
Narita International Airport, which serves Tokyo, has far fewer temptations to get passengers to part with their money than the new terminals that have proliferated in cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing and Incheon, which serves the South Korean capital of Seoul.
The terminal at Kansai International will incorporate a large duty free store for budget travelers, and more retail outlets and cafes will be sited alongside lounges for each of the nine boarding gates.
Japan’s low-cost airlines have a mere five per cent share of the aviation market, a far cry from the 29 per cent that similar operators have in the US and the 35 per cent share in Europe. — AFP/Relaxnews