AirAsia Japan stated (03-Feb-2012) it obtained an Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) from the Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau on 01-Feb-2012. The AOC will enable AirAsia Japan, a JV between AirAsia and All Nippon Airways, to launch commercial services to international and domestic destinations. The carrier expects to launch service in Aug-2012, stating: "The company targets this joint venture to begin operations at the latest Aug-2012 but could be earlier subject to aircraft availability". [more - original PR]
AirAsia Japan receives AOC; expects to launch service in Aug-2012
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A Japan Airlines-AirAsia partnership could help JAL catch up with ANA in Southeast Asia
Japan Airlines is eagerly counting down to 01-Apr-2017, which is expected to be the date when business expansion restrictions on JAL that were put in place after its bankruptcy restructuring will be lifted. The rules are complex and contain exceptions; JAL has been able to open new service to points like Boston and San Diego and invest in Jetstar Japan, but not able to open other routes or to invest in Skymark Airlines. Recent years have been a bonanza for its rival All Nippon Airways, which had been Japan's No. 2 airline but used government support and JAL's restrictions to embark on ambitious expansion, from long haul growth to purchasing Skymark Airlines and A380s.
JAL is unlikely to engage in rapid capacity expansion. JAL is firmly focused on maintaining high airline margins while replicating ANA's group strategy of non-cyclical ground-based businesses (flight training, maintenance, etc.). One exception however is Southeast Asia, where ANA has been growing. Japan has become politically closer to Southeast Asia and commercially too, with tourism influxes.
Yet there is still a hesitation when it comes to organic growth. One solution could be a partnership with AirAsia, which would give JAL access to a wide network and growing business segment. In return, JAL could even invest in AirAsia Japan, which is facing start-up delays and could benefit from parental help. JAL would join ANA in having two LCCs; JAL is an investor in Jetstar Japan, whose owner Jetstar is a partial rival to AirAsia. JAL-AirAsia would combine two of ANA's main foes: AirAsia Japan, which was a JV between ANA and AirAsia, was dissolved in bitter disagreement.
AirAsia exploring future opportunities in Northeast Asia: Chinese affiliate enticing, but difficult
AirAsia is doubling down its focus on North Asia with a regional office in Hong Kong overseen by former AirAsia executive Kathleen Tan, who is widely credited for AirAsia's strong Chinese relations and growth in China: AirAsia is the largest non-greater China airline company in the country. Across North Asia the opportunities are large, but the challenges equally big. A China-based AirAsia affiliate would appear to be a long term ambition.
More immediately, AirAsia is regaining a local Northeast Asia presence with the launch of AirAsia Japan Mk II in 2017. Although delayed from initial 2015 start-up projections, AirAsia Japan gives the group relevance in a large domestic market and significantly growing short haul international market.
Elsewhere in Northeast Asia the opportunities are mixed. Korea and Hong Kong are becoming saturated and remain protectionist. Macau and Taiwan are unlikely to be big enough to support a local AirAsia unit.