Jetstar Japan has announced plans to acquire three long-range Airbus A321LRs to boost capacity in its home market and for expansion into medium haul routes.
The airline said in a statement on November 28 the three aircraft, also referred to as the A321neoLR, would join the fleet from 2020 onwards.
It is the second member of the Jetstar family of airlines to opt for the A321LR, following Qantas’s announcement in February 2018 that Jetstar Australia And New Zealand would add 18 of the type to the fleet from mid-2020.
The Jetstar Japan statement, published in Japanese, said the use of the A321LR on domestic routes would allow it to increase capacity amid healthy demand.
Meanwhile, the A321LR’s added range would open up the possibility to develop new markets, including medium-range international flights to leisure destinations in Southeast Asia.
It was unclear whether the three A321LRs for Jetstar Japan would be sourced from the Qantas Group’s longstanding order for 99 A320neo family of aircraft that was first struck in 2011 and later restructured to comprise 54 A320neos and 45 A321neos. Comment has been sought from a Jetstar spokesperson.
Japan Airlines and Qantas each own 33 per cent of Jetstar Japan, with the remainder held by Mitsubishi Corporation (16.7 per cent) and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation (16.7 per cent).
Launched in 2012, Jetstar Japan currently operates 24 Airbus A320ceos that fly to 13 domestic and four international destinations. It has said previously the fleet was expected to increase to 28 aircraft by 2019.
First A321LR delivered on November 14
The first A321LR was delivered to launch customer Arkia Israeli Airlines in mid-November.
The aircraft has a maximum seating capacity of 244 passengers and a range of up to 4,000nm, according to the Airbus website. Jetstar Japan’s A320ceos have 180 seats in a single-class configuration.
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In terms of potential new routes from Jetstar Japan’s Tokyo Narita base, that puts resort destinations such as Phuket in Thailand (2,836nm), Penang in Malaysia (2,867nm) and Denpasar in Indonesia (3,020nm) within range.
As part of the 100-hour flight test program, the A321LR in March operated a nonstop flight from Mahe in the Seychelles islands to Toulouse, covering a total distance of 4,750nm in 11 hours.
In addition to the 16-member flight test crew, the cabin also included 162 “human heat-replicating dummy passengers”, Airbus said on April 11.
The A321LRs for Jetstar Australia and New Zealand have been earmarked to operate both domestic services and flights from Melbourne and Sydney to Bali, freeing up Boeing 787-8s to be redeployed to other destinations in China, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as Honolulu in the United States.
The long-range narrowbody could also be used to open up new routes.
“Our network people are having a field day trying to work out where the opportunities are and they’ve got a few ideas as well,” Jetstar group chief executive Gareth Evans told a CAPA – Centre for Aviation conference in Sydney in August.
Jetstar Japan’s expansion comes as Japan Airlines plans to set up new LCC
In June 2018, one of Jetstar Japan’s co-owners Japan Airlines said it would establish a new low-cost-carrier (LCC) subsidiary that would focus on medium to long-haul flights.
Set to take off from mid-2020 with two 787-8s, Japan Airlines said the LCC would serve destinations in Asia, Europe, and the Americas from Tokyo Narita.
A holding company for the LCC called TBL Co. Ltd – believed to be an acronym for To Be Launched – was set up on at the end of July. Japan Airlines was investing 980 million yen (A$12 million) into the venture, according to the details of the new company in the airline’s July 31 announcement.
Japan Airlines said the new LCC would “create new demand, working along with the successful services provided by Jetstar Japan, which features domestic and short-haul international flights”.
While no destinations have been announced, Australia is within the geographical reach of the 787-8s Japan Airlines has earmarked for its LCC, based on the slide presentation above.
Jetstar Australia and New Zealand, which is one hundred per cent owned by Qantas, already flies between Australia and Japan, with nonstop flights from Gold Coast to Tokyo Narita, and from Cairns to and Osaka Kansai and Tokyo Narita.
Meanwhile, Qantas flies from Brisbane and Melbourne to Tokyo Narita, Sydney to Tokyo Haneda and Sydney to Osaka Kansai.
And Japan Airlines serves Melbourne and Sydney from Tokyo Narita.
The only other carrier offering nonstop flights between Australia and Japan is All Nippon Airways, which has a daily Sydney-Tokyo Haneda service with 787 equipment.
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