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Japanese low-fare carrier Skymark plans to use four
Airbus A380 aircraft to launch a cut-price, all-premium service between Tokyo
and London, according to Bloomberg. Airline president Shinichi Nishikubo in an
interview said the service would start in November 2014, with the A380s
configured for 114 business-class seats on the upper deck and 299 premium-economy
seats on the lower deck.
Nishikubo said a roundtrip business-class fare would
cost 300,000 yen ($3,600) compared with 700,000 yen ($8,400) charged by rival
Japanese airlines on the route. All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines both fly between
Tokyo London Heathrow, as do British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
Skymark currently serves only the Japanese domestic
market, however, its annual passenger volume of 3 million proves it is capable
of overcoming steep challenges; Japanese aviation has a history of heavy
protectionism that in recent decades has allowed few new entrants. Several market
trends are helping Skymark to expand again, including recent, limited
deregulation of both airlines and airports in Japan, capacity expansion at
Tokyo's two main airports—Haneda and Narita—and significant reductions in fleet
size by JAL.
Established airlines such as Lufthansa and British
Airways have enjoyed modest success with all-premium, long-haul flights but lower-fare
premium carriers have fared badly. On transatlantic routes, Eos, Maxjet and
Silverjet all failed within a 12-month span in 2007 and 2008.
Nishikubo told Bloomberg that Skymark would buy two
of the A380s with cash and take the other two on lease. He did not reveal which
airports would be used in Tokyo and London. Skymark by 2017 also plans to
introduce flights to Frankfurt and New York.