Narita, Chiba Pref. – Low-cost carrier Zipair Tokyo's first flight took off with only cargo on board instead of people due to the dearth in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
For the time being, the carrier, set up by Japan Airlines, will run four round-trip flights per week between Narita Airport and Bangkok.
It initially planned to debut as a passenger service on May 14. In a rare move, however, JAL decided to let it transport only cargo after passenger demand evaporated in the wake of international travel restrictions imposed for the pandemic.
Zipair's debut flight Wednesday left Narita carrying machine components and chemical products. The airline doesn't know when passenger flights will begin.
International air travel has virtually ground to a halt because of the virus. But demand for cargo flights is climbing because the collapse of passenger flights, which also carry cargo, put a dent in transport volume as well.
Zipair believes it can cover flight costs to some extent by sticking exclusively to cargo. It may consider operating extra flights if demand is high.
"We are thinking positively and hope to effectively use this time until the launch of passenger flights," Zipair President Shingo Nishida said.