ZIPAIR Tokyo Launching Honolulu Flights

Filed Under: Japan Airlines

ZIPAIR Tokyo is following through on its plans to launch flights to the US, despite the coronavirus pandemic. First a bit of background on the airline…

What is ZIPAIR Tokyo?

ZIPAIR Tokyo is Japan Airlines’ new low cost carrier:

  • The airline has started operations with a fleet of two Boeing 787-8s
  • The airline plans to grow by two planes per year, which it intends to acquire either through leases from Japan Airlines, or through other means
  • Coronavirus delayed the carrier’s launch; it ended up launching flights between Tokyo Narita and Seoul Incheon as of October 2020

As far as ZIPAIR Tokyo’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 Tokyo launching Honolulu flights

From the time that the ZIPAIR Tokyo concept was announced, we knew that the airline eventually planned to fly to the US, with destinations like Honolulu and Las Vegas being hinted at. Back in April the airline even filed with the US Department of Transportation to request permission to launch Tokyo Narita to Honolulu flights starting in the winter 2020 season.

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking that the airline may delay these flights, given the coronavirus pandemic. Well, there’s an update on that front — ZIPAIR Tokyo plans to launch Honolulu flights in just a few weeks time, at least temporarily.

ZIPAIR Tokyo will be launching flights between Tokyo Narita and Honolulu as of December 19, 2020:

  • The airline will initially operate a total of 16 roundtrip flights between December 19, 2020, and January 31, 2021
  • Tickets for the service are already on sale, and start at $180 one-way in economy class or $544 one-way in business class

The service will operate with the following schedule:

ZG2 Tokyo to Honolulu departing 8:15PM arriving 7:55AM
ZG1 Honolulu to Tokyo departing 9:55AM arriving 2:30PM (+1 day)

ZIPAIR Tokyo’s Honolulu route

All of this is viable because Japanese tourists are able to visit Hawaii in conjunction with pre-travel testing as of a couple of weeks ago (meanwhile Americans still aren’t allowed in Japan).

Honolulu is an interesting first route

Tokyo to Honolulu is both a logical and surprising route for a low cost carrier to launch:

  • On the one hand, there’s huge demand for leisure travel between Japan and Hawaii, and clearly ZIPAIR Tokyo thinks there’s plenty of unrealized potential for more budget-conscious tourism
  • On the other hand, the market is already incredibly well served; pre-pandemic there were often over a dozen daily flights between the city pairs, and it’s such a big market that it’s exclusively where ANA flies its A380s
  • It’s also unconventional for a low cost carrier to replicate a route that’s also served by the full service airline; usually low cost carriers are used to serve new markets, but I guess this is such a huge market that the company thinks there’s room for ZIPAIR Tokyo to enter without cannibalizing Japan Airlines’ business

Frankly if there’s ever been a time to start this route, this might just be it — the route is currently less competitive than in the past, and if anything I’d bet there’s even more potential with cost conscious tourists right now.

All Nippon Airways exclusively flies A380s to Honolulu

Bottom line

Earlier this year ZIPAIR Tokyo requested permission with the US DOT to launch flights to Honolulu, and now the airline is following through on that in spite of coronavirus. Initially the airline will operate 16 roundtrip flights, in December and January.

In many ways this actually seems like the ideal time for a low cost carrier to launch this route, given that a lot of service between Tokyo and Honolulu has been suspended, and there’s presumably still some amount of demand.

It’ll be interesting to see to what extent ZIPAIR Tokyo extends Honolulu service beyond the current schedule.

What do you make of ZIPAIR’s Honolulu service?

  1. Does not make sense that Japanese and Canadians are allowed in the US, but not vice versa. We should be revolting against both countries’ small-brained immigration departments.

  2. I wonder how this works, since once you’re on USA soil you are free to head anywhere in the USA, so surely they can use this as a connection point. Or are Japanese allowed to fly directly to the continental USA mainland during this time…or are about to.

    I would imagine Japan must be opening up to foreigners for this to have been approved. Hmmmm.

    The so called Coronavirus mess is somewhat under control in Japan compared to the USA, and Hawaii devastated their tourist economy to keep it under control. Perhaps this is why the Japanese authorities feel its ok….so OBVIOUSLY, Japanese citizens are unable to bring the Coronavirus back to Japan.

    Yes, its a very very very smart virus. šŸ˜‰

    Wow, the fakeness continues.

  3. @Jordan, if they start flights in the near term, it is likely to be for cargo. Due to the sharp reduction in total flights, cargo rates are very high and that is one of the few bright spots for airline profits. Although it is slightly easier than before to travel to and from Japan, there is testing on arrival and a quarantine at the Japan end. I suspect the real reason they would have flights is for cargo.

    We recently moved back from Tokyo to the US, and there were only about 30 people on the flight, with about 20 of them in Polaris. We were in Economy Plus with our dog and there were just 2 other people in our cabin and about 6 others in the rear cabin. Longer term, the expectation is that leisure travel will return before business travel, so airlines are focused on products to maximize leisure return.

  4. Hmm, if ZIPAIR is owned by Japan Airlines, I wonder if it will somehow eventually get involved with the rest of oneworld… Would be cool.

  5. @Jordan – Japanese citizens are allowed to enter the US, no need to use Hawaii as a jumping point. The problem for them is when you return to Japan, you have a mandatory screening upon arrival then 14 day quarantine. You’re not supposed to use public transport to get home / or your quarantine site from Narita either. This limits people who are willing & able to fly to those who would be able to drive to Narita, or to pay for a private transfer…

  6. Well, obviously the one-way street of visitation allowed is because the USA is the hotbed of Coronavirus… Unlike the other properly managed societies.

  7. ANA does not operate the A380 at all to HNL.
    Indeed they have not resumed service at all. Their first flight comes in later today, using a 787-9.

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