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AirAsia Japan picks Centrair as main hub

JIJI

The new Japanese unit of Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia plans to pick Central Japan International Airport (Centrair) in Aichi Prefecture as its main hub, AirAsia Japan President Yoshinori Odagiri said in a recent interview.

The unit, retaining the name AirAsia Japan, was set up recently to resume Japanese services in 2015 with two airplanes.

The Malaysian airline first established AirAsia Japan in 2011 as a joint venture with All Nippon Airways Co. and launched operations in 2012. Last year, however, the partnership was dissolved and AirAsia Japan became a fully owned unit of ANA’s parent, ANA Holdings Inc. It has since been renamed Vanilla Air.

“Centrair is the top candidate for our hub airport” because it is open around the clock, Odagiri said.

There are no vacant slots at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, while Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture is not open 24 hours a day, said Odagiri, who was also president of the former AirAsia Japan.

While Kansai International Airport in Osaka is “attractive,” it is already being used by budget airline Peach Aviation and foreign low-cost carriers, he pointed out.

“The situation there is tough for a latecomer,” he said.

AirAsia Japan will first consider running flights to and from New Chitose Airport near Sapporo, and Fukuoka Airport, Odagiri said, adding that he wants all kinds of passengers from tourists to businesspeople to make use of the two routes.

He also expressed a willingness to set the company’s flight schedules to meet the needs of business travelers.

Shortly after starting with two planes in 2015, the airline will expand its fleet to three planes and simultaneously launch international services, he said.

“Taipei will likely be our first international flight destination,” Odagiri said.

“We plan to introduce Airbus SAS A320neo aircraft in 2016,” he said, adding that the plane can fly from Japan to Hanoi.

The company will also consider introducing the midsize A330 for potential flights to such popular destinations as Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast, Odagiri said.

He stressed that AirAsia Japan aims to become profitable in the business year ending in December 2016.

“By that time, we will have more than 10 planes and our overall operational costs will be starting to decrease,” he said.