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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Japan’s First A380 Takes Off

At a time when the future of the A380 looks set to become more crowded because of high density formats, the first such giant Airbus ordered by a Japan flag carrier has taken off on its way to a future flying for a much roomier business model.

The Skymark Airlines A380 flew from Toulouse to Hamburg yesterday for its cabin fit out and the completion of the paint job.

Premium Economy Seats
Skymark Airlines is configuring its six A380s for only 394 passengers, 114 in business class and 280 in premium economy. It will start flying them from Tokyo Narita to New York City, London, Frankfurt and Paris from much later in the year.

This is an airline that many non Japan flyers would probably wish to see flying in their own countries, in these crowded and uncomfortable times for air travellers. It is also an airline whose business model appears to be unique to Japan, in that similar efforts have been made in the US, Australia, the UK and continental Europe and all failed, very quickly and emphatically.

Yet Japan appears to be different. Skymark has a low cost base and very high standards, and works on the premise that Japan is a market where packaging, presentation, and the right formula of value for money will succeed.

It is for example in the process of putting a small fleet of 271 seat A330-300s into single class all premium economy domestic service where the cabins are configured in a roomy seven across format. It calls them ‘Green Seats’ and pitches them to the substantial Japanese demand on main intercity routes for spacious Green Car premium seats on its high speed railway services.

This emphasis on affordable comfort by Skymark is recent. In 2012 it decided that the competitive outlook for its then low cost higher density single aisle jet services in Japan was going to be very crowded as LCCs by All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines (through Jetstar Japan) began to ramp up, although not as quickly as Jetstar Japan had envisaged.

While Skymark has retained a fleet of 31 Boeing 737-800s in a 177 seat single class low fare format (which is 12 seats less than Ryanair in its 738s) it is clearly going for the affordable comfortable format on the major business or personal travel routes.

There is a traditional support for these Skymark settings among Japan’s consumers. The question is whether that support will endure in the age of higher volume, lower fare travel. In the case of the Skymark A380s, this is of course a very big question.

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Live to love and love to live. The motto that I held on my entire life. Just a regular guy who loves what I am passionate in life. A song writer and producer. Living life on the move. From Malaysia to The States, New Zealand to Singapore. With the companion of great people in life. In and out from the music industry. Taking everything one step at a time. 
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