ZIPAIR Launching Tokyo To Los Angeles Route

ZIPAIR Launching Tokyo To Los Angeles Route

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ZIPAIR will soon be launching flights to Los Angeles, making it the carrier’s second destination in the United States, after Honolulu.

What is ZIPAIR?

ZIPAIR is Japan Airlines’ new low cost carrier:

  • ZIPAIR started operations with a fleet of two Boeing 787-8s, and now has three Boeing 787-8s
  • ZIPAIR plans to grow by two planes per year, which it intends to acquire either through leases from Japan Airlines, or through other means
  • ZIPAIR launched in October 2020, and currently flies to Bangkok, Honolulu, Seoul Incheon, and Singapore

As far as ZIPAIR’s 787 cabins go, each plane has a total of 290 seats, including 18 business class seats and 272 economy class seats:

  • Business class has reverse herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, and the product is sold in an extremely unbundled way
  • Seats don’t have personal televisions, but rather there’s streaming entertainment (ZIPAIR’s business class seats are the first reverse herringbone seats to not have personal televisions)
  • These planes are dense compared to Japan Airlines’ 787-8s, some of which have as few as 161 seats
  • These planes aren’t dense compared to some other low cost carriers, as airlines like Jetstar and Scoot have 335 seats on their 787-8s
ZIPAIR economy class cabin Boeing 787-8

ZIPAIR launching Los Angeles (LAX) flights

As of December 25, 2021, ZIPAIR will be launching 3x weekly flights between Tokyo Narita (NRT) and Los Angeles (LAX). The flight will operate with the following schedule on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays:

ZG24 Tokyo to Los Angeles departing 2:45PM arriving 7:40AM
ZG23 Los Angeles to Tokyo departing 9:40AM arriving 2:25PM (+1 day)

The ~5,450 mile flight is blocked at 9hr55min eastbound and 11hr45min westbound.

One-way fares seem to start at ~$285-311 in economy class, or $842-905 in business class, depending on the direction. It’s always great to see airlines offering attractive one-way international fares (since that’s not the standard), and it’s particularly great to see such reasonable fares for business class. While business class is no frills in terms of service, getting a flat bed with direct aisle access for that price is a deal.

It’s still obviously a challenging time for international travel to Japan. While vaccinated international travelers are welcome in the United States without quarantine, Americans aren’t allowed in Japan, and those returning to Japan from abroad typically have to quarantine.

Historically the Tokyo to Los Angeles market has been incredibly competitive, with service from All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and United Airlines. However, during the pandemic service and frequencies have been scaled back significantly.

The Tokyo to Los Angeles market is competitive

Bottom line

ZIPAIR, which is Japan Airlines’ low cost carrier, will be launching flights between Tokyo and Los Angeles as of late 2021. The airline will operate the route 3x weekly using Boeing 787s, and flights are already available for sale.

The airline is offering excellent fares in the market, whether flying one-way or roundtrip. ZIPAIR also has a unique business class product, which consists of fully flat reverse herringbone seats, though all services beyond that are optional.

What do you make of ZIPAIR’s Los Angeles service?

Conversations (18)
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  1. Robert Schrader Guest

    Japan is closed to all nonresident foreigners without exceptional circumstances, regardless of country of origin. I fail to understand why so many miles and points bloggers assert that there is some specific prohibition against Americans. It’s so tiresome.

  2. Apso Eyot Guest

    Interesting approach by ZIPAIR. Rather than going for underserved leisure markets, they go for popular markets that are already saturated with full service carriers, namely Seoul, Bangkok, Honolulu, and now this. I see the logic is that the LA area has the largest Japanese-American diaspora in the US (look at Torrance in the area for instance), so it makes sense for O&D traffic. Despite this, I can see them coming to places like PDX and...

    Interesting approach by ZIPAIR. Rather than going for underserved leisure markets, they go for popular markets that are already saturated with full service carriers, namely Seoul, Bangkok, Honolulu, and now this. I see the logic is that the LA area has the largest Japanese-American diaspora in the US (look at Torrance in the area for instance), so it makes sense for O&D traffic. Despite this, I can see them coming to places like PDX and LAS sometime soon. I’m excited to see what they’ll do next. Maybe add flights out of other Japanese airports, launch flights to Europe (like FCO, BCN, or ATH), or sell codeshares with Jetstar Japan for those low-cost travelers, or JAL for those who want to mix and match it (if they don’t already).

  3. Steve Guest

    David, click through as all the charges are listed. You can even choose your entree individually. Not a bad selection.

    Only thing is not way to connect to ICN without an overnight. Oh well, Narita is sort of a nice place to see for first timers.

  4. iamhere Guest

    I wonder if those will be the real fares. It's much like "cheap carriers" in the US. Not so cheap or not as cheap as they should be compared to legacy. If the route is that competitive, legacy will be competitive too. Especially on a long flight, I really don't want to have something subpar. This seems like a Japanese version of JetBlue. JetBlue used to be a low cost, but has a business class and isn't so cheap.

  5. Greg Guest

    Forgotten here that Zip is a creation of JAL - this is not some entrepreneurial disruptor like Norwegian

  6. Tim Dunn Gold

    It is important to note that this service is to/from Narita airport which fulfills the Japanese gov'ts intention to transform NRT into a longhaul low cost airport with "premium carrier" services to operate from Haneda.
    AA/JL, DL, and UA/NH all operate LAX-HND but fifth freedom flights such as by SQ cannot operate between HND and the US; they have to remain at NRT.
    The latest round of new market access to HND by...

    It is important to note that this service is to/from Narita airport which fulfills the Japanese gov'ts intention to transform NRT into a longhaul low cost airport with "premium carrier" services to operate from Haneda.
    AA/JL, DL, and UA/NH all operate LAX-HND but fifth freedom flights such as by SQ cannot operate between HND and the US; they have to remain at NRT.
    The latest round of new market access to HND by US carriers started just as the pandemic began. Even before the pandemic, average fares from HND to the US were much higher than from NRT and the trend has grown during the pandemic. The highest value passengers will choose to fly to/from HND rather than NRT - which is a huge threat to the AA/JL and UA/NH hubs at NRT; there simply won't be the revenue to support high fare service between the US and NRT as existed pre-covid. DL won the right to move all of its remaining flights to the US from NRT to HND and dropped all of its beyond Japan flights.
    ZIPAIR will attract to low fare travelers but the legacy/network carriers that remain on NRT to USA routes will likely not be there for long.
    This is the first of a number of other low fare carrier routes that will pop up from NRT.

  7. Stuart Guest

    In argument to those who feel this is not sustainable as to Business Class fares, I respectively disagree. In fact, JAL and ANA often have $2400 r/t Business fares from LA to Tokyo. I once paid $1100.00 for an SQ business fare to LA from NRT two days out. Now, AA, DL, and UA tend to be pricey from a public and published standpoint, but they have very large corporate contracts that are also probably...

    In argument to those who feel this is not sustainable as to Business Class fares, I respectively disagree. In fact, JAL and ANA often have $2400 r/t Business fares from LA to Tokyo. I once paid $1100.00 for an SQ business fare to LA from NRT two days out. Now, AA, DL, and UA tend to be pricey from a public and published standpoint, but they have very large corporate contracts that are also probably selling the seats for around that price via these agreements. The reality is that the discount is not that much on ZIP, and when adding in checked bags and meals it's probably a wash.

    It's for those reasons I don't think the model will work. Not because it's too cheap. Only in markets where they can offer a cool and slick product where others are dismal (JetBlue to LHR as an example) do I see this working. Bottom line is that ANA, SQ, and JAL offer such a great product, and often with great fares in Business for those in the know, it seems rather redundant and not all that exciting.

    1. David Diamond

      Yeah, I see that they sell all the ancillary stuff as a package on their website, and getting checked luggage + carry on + seat selection + meals + amenities cost ~$1050 o/w. It's a very good price, but I can definitely see them profiting off the route if they can routinely fill seats.

    2. DCA Will Always Be "National" Guest

      I liken it to the "WN Halo". There was a time when WN was almost always cheaper - by a not-insignificant amount - than competitors to nearly every destination served by both WN and the US3. I almost never find that to be the case anymore. So unless I must check a bag (basically never) and have heartache about the cost, then WN isn't even on my radar. I get the same-ish seat on...

      I liken it to the "WN Halo". There was a time when WN was almost always cheaper - by a not-insignificant amount - than competitors to nearly every destination served by both WN and the US3. I almost never find that to be the case anymore. So unless I must check a bag (basically never) and have heartache about the cost, then WN isn't even on my radar. I get the same-ish seat on US3 if I fly Y, but have a lot more say in pretty much everything else with the experience on US3 for the same price or cheaper.

      I think this case will be the same. Zipair will start by offering seemingly cheaper fares if J if you don't add anything else - simply a pax butt in a seat. But when you add all the things that come with a J fare on legacy carriers, Zipair will offer a substandard product on-board and at the airport but at the same (or higher?) pricepoint.

  8. Brodie Gold

    I'm game for a sub $1k in a lie flat. The only thing that would make the experience better would be an evening departure where you could sleep most of the flight away. This will pair nicely with a Singapore redemption when the availability is lacking.

  9. infotainment New Member

    Seems like a pretty strange time to start up significant Japan service; I guess they’re anticipating that the Japanese govt will start allowing international tourism in early 2022, which seems perhaps overly optimistic.

    1. Robert Schrader Guest

      I’m assuming they’re mostly catering to (penny-pinching) salarymen commuting from Japan to the US and back, given that it’s only a 3x weekly service through April.

      As far as when Japan will open to tourism, the government will reportedly announce something before the end of the year. However, rumors suggest the initial opening will be limited to group tourists.

      This makes no sense, of course, since group tourists typically come from other East Asian...

      I’m assuming they’re mostly catering to (penny-pinching) salarymen commuting from Japan to the US and back, given that it’s only a 3x weekly service through April.

      As far as when Japan will open to tourism, the government will reportedly announce something before the end of the year. However, rumors suggest the initial opening will be limited to group tourists.

      This makes no sense, of course, since group tourists typically come from other East Asian countries, all of which have a ban on outbound tourism at the moment. But Japan’s closed borders during the pandemic have made little sense, given how terribly it has managed Covid domestically compared to its neighbors.

  10. David Guest

    Will be interesting to see what the ancillary charges are for the LA route. They seem very reasonable for the flights to/from ICN. Since the meal isn’t included, I wonder if they’ll allow pax to bring their own or, like Scoot, will say if you want to eat you have to buy the food from them. Even with the extra charges, seems like a good deal for those who travel on their own dime!

  11. Brad Guest

    With those J fares I found my new airline. I don’t care about frills, only the seat. Plus the flight times are better in my opinion.

  12. shoeguy Guest

    An un-necessary addition to a crowded, saturated market served with airlines that already have pretty good products overall. What a stupid business model.

  13. Alan Guest

    Disregarding the insane timing of service commencement, this is not a great plan from a pricing perspective. LAX-Tokyo is already the cheapest US-Japan market, and the three transpacific joint ventures (UA/NH, DL/KE, and AA/JL) will no doubt immediately match ZIPAIR's economy fares. Offering a less-attractive product with no price advantage while only being able to serve the local market is not a recipe for success- just ask Norwegian.

    Unbundling business class is an interesting...

    Disregarding the insane timing of service commencement, this is not a great plan from a pricing perspective. LAX-Tokyo is already the cheapest US-Japan market, and the three transpacific joint ventures (UA/NH, DL/KE, and AA/JL) will no doubt immediately match ZIPAIR's economy fares. Offering a less-attractive product with no price advantage while only being able to serve the local market is not a recipe for success- just ask Norwegian.

    Unbundling business class is an interesting idea but I highly doubt the ancillary revenue they capture will be enough to make this product financially viable. Transpacific business class fares generally start from $5K+ for a reason.

    1. Franklin Guest

      I believe it's $5k so they can make a lot of profit. I fly business across the pacific often, usually paying around $3k r/t. The reason is that I start in Vietnam, not Tokyo. $5k is just a price hike for wealthier people who they believe will pay it.

      I would pay $800 one way in this unbundled business over $500 for a ful-serice economy seat, for sure.

    2. Alan Guest

      Yes, it is true that pricing often varies by point of commencement, since that is highly correlated to ability to pay. I agree with that the pricing for business class is very attractive; it just is not sustainable, considering how much real estate a reverse herringbone seat takes up compared to an economy class seat. $800, while a great deal, is objectively the wrong price point to be profitable.

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Stuart Guest

In argument to those who feel this is not sustainable as to Business Class fares, I respectively disagree. In fact, JAL and ANA often have $2400 r/t Business fares from LA to Tokyo. I once paid $1100.00 for an SQ business fare to LA from NRT two days out. Now, AA, DL, and UA tend to be pricey from a public and published standpoint, but they have very large corporate contracts that are also probably selling the seats for around that price via these agreements. The reality is that the discount is not that much on ZIP, and when adding in checked bags and meals it's probably a wash. It's for those reasons I don't think the model will work. Not because it's too cheap. Only in markets where they can offer a cool and slick product where others are dismal (JetBlue to LHR as an example) do I see this working. Bottom line is that ANA, SQ, and JAL offer such a great product, and often with great fares in Business for those in the know, it seems rather redundant and not all that exciting.

1
Alan Guest

Disregarding the insane timing of service commencement, this is not a great plan from a pricing perspective. LAX-Tokyo is already the cheapest US-Japan market, and the three transpacific joint ventures (UA/NH, DL/KE, and AA/JL) will no doubt immediately match ZIPAIR's economy fares. Offering a less-attractive product with no price advantage while only being able to serve the local market is not a recipe for success- just ask Norwegian. Unbundling business class is an interesting idea but I highly doubt the ancillary revenue they capture will be enough to make this product financially viable. Transpacific business class fares generally start from $5K+ for a reason.

1
DCA Will Always Be "National" Guest

I liken it to the "WN Halo". There <i>was</i> a time when WN was almost always cheaper - by a not-insignificant amount - than competitors to nearly every destination served by both WN and the US3. I almost never find that to be the case anymore. So unless I <i>must<i /> check a bag (basically never) and have heartache about the cost, then WN isn't even on my radar. I get the same-ish seat on US3 if I fly Y, but have a lot more say in pretty much everything else with the experience on US3 for the same price or cheaper. I think this case will be the same. Zipair will start by offering seemingly cheaper fares if J if you don't add anything else - simply a pax butt in a seat. But when you add all the things that come with a J fare on legacy carriers, Zipair will offer a substandard product on-board and at the airport but at the same (or higher?) pricepoint.

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