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Tale Of Three Japanese LCCs MM/GK/JW 2013

Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:11 pm



After two trip reports flying business class, I decide to go the relatively new unchartered Low Cost Airlines LCC field in Japan. Given the relatively limited schedules of these three new Japanese LCC entrants, it is quite a challenge to squeeze in three flights within a twenty-four hours window. Nonetheless I managed and thanked god for mostly on time performances. Skymark Airlines is one of the earliest LCCs established in Japan and I flew it previously and honestly would not want to repeat that experience anytime soon. I chose to fly Peach, Air Asia Japan (soon defunct), and Jetstar Japan, and my routing was to fly Peach from Kansai to Sapporo, and then fly Air Asia Japan from Sapporo to Narita, and then fly Jetstar from Narita to Kansai the next morning. It was not a perfect sample, as some of these flights depart the respective airlines’ home bases, and some relied on the infrastructure of the airports. When I reflected on these three airlines, the LCC experiences in Japan are definitely better than other regions in the world. Yes the boarding and security lines are more crowded and yes you have to walk up and down the stairs a lot, and most flights depart from a remote gate. For most mainline operations, remote gates are pretty rare for the two major Japanese carriers. In terms of seats, both ANA and JAL really cramped their domestic planes anyway, so Airbus A320s are pretty comfortable. Seat pitch wise – not major different from the mainline, but of course you don’t need to pay for a seat on the major carriers. In terms of catering, the two major airlines offer limited selection of beverages – juices, water, tea or consommé soup – coffee on some airlines and morning flights. However the main difference is the check-in experience, more personable services, as well as more efficient boarding systems. The cutoff times are shorter, and everything runs smoother. The boarding experiences are less hassled. Anyway, given how disciplined the Japanese are, no one was trying to break the rules especially the carry on situations. At least for those three flights, I felt that passengers were very disciplined, but these three airlines really give me very different impressions.

Here is my complete itinerary:
Day 1
MM 107 KIX-CTS Lv1530 Arr1725 Airbus A320-200 JA804P
JW 8528 CTS-NRT Lv1905 Arr2040 Airbus A320-200 Sharklet JA05AJ

Day 2
GK 103 NRT-KIX Lv0725 Arr0850 Airbus A320-200 JA05JJ

Honestly all three websites are pretty standard LCC stuff, and they are actually a step above major airlines, as they rely on customers to use the websites to change, cancel and do all the reservation related matters. The fares are clearly listed and all three offered different levels of flights. I am able to select the seats I want and the surcharge for exit seat is reasonable. Air Asia offers a bit more in terms of preordering food, which I appreciate. However Air Asia Japan and Jetstar have the advantages of using the system from their mother company, so I give more credits to Peach, as its website is just as good as the other two websites. I only tried online check-in for Jetstar Japan, but failed because I had an exit row seat. But strangely I was able to use the kiosk.

All three airlines pretty much encourage you to use online check-in and Air Asia opens its web check-in fourteen days prior to departure, and both Jetstar and Peach open its online check in on a more traditional 48 hours prior to departure timeline. There are reminder emails from each airline. However all airlines allow complimentary kiosk check-in and airport check-in. However for Peach, airport check-in including kiosks only opens 90 minutes prior to departure for domestic flights (international flights will open two hours prior to departure). While both Air Asia Japan and Jetstar Japan open their check-in at the two hours prior to departure for both international and domestic flights, Peach has a different guideline.

Peach’s main hub is Osaka Kansai Airport’s Terminal Two, which is as bare as one expects. It is basically a warehouse structure with a convenient store, a few eateries, a bookstore, and Peach’s check-ins for international and domestic flights. All arrival and departure flights use the same floor. From the main terminal and the train station, you need to take a complimentary bus to the main terminal, so please make sure you allocate plenty of time. It is a five minutes bus ride from the Aeroplaza to Terminal Two. The shuttles seem to run frequently, but there is a ride involved.

Shuttle Bus

Flight information

Osaka Kansai’s Terminal Two

Peach’s check-in kiosk

Carry-on allowance – one personal item and one carry on bag that fits into this box

I give Peach high marks because there are many staffs wearing the Peach t-shirts assisting with the check in. Since it owns its own terminal, they can easily control the flow of passengers. There are no lines and everything seems to be running in order. Despite there were three domestic flights departing around the same time, crowding is not an issue. Security checks are not crowded and indeed the lines are the shortest out of all three LCCs.

Peach Check-in at Sapporo Chitose – near Air Asia check-in – please no kiosk at this station!

Air Asia Japan has its own check-in counter at Sapporo but it is located in the arrival level, along with Peach. You will have to go up one floor for check-in. Please remember that you must use the assigned security checkpoint, as there is a different boarding pass verification process here at Chitose Airport. ANA and JAL have their automatic scanners, but obviously the LCCs don’t have those automatic boarding pass scanners. They have to stamp your boarding passes, so please remember. I will also apologize for the lack of pictures for Air Asia Japan, as it was a night flight with limited photo taking opportunities. Similar to Air Asia in KLIA, you have to use the kiosk to check-in and if you have check-in bags, you then drop off your bags. Air Asia Japan operates similarly with other Air Asia ventures, but the difference is that the check-in cutoff time for domestic flights are thirty minutes, instead of forty-five minutes with most Air Asia flights.

Jetstar Japan’s major hub is Tokyo Narita Airport, and its check-in counters are located in the mezzanine level of Terminal Two. As expected there are the usual check-in lines, reservation lines and baggage drop off lines. There are plenty of kiosks, and there are many staffs readily available to assist with any issue. Check-in at airport begins two hours prior to departure, and closes thirty minutes prior to departure. There are staffs consistently making sure that people standing in line will not miss the flights. The baggage drop-off lines are very busy, as Jetstar has many flights in the morning. Indeed, out of all three LCCs, Jetstar has the longest line for every aspect from baggage drop-off to security lines. I think the small security checkpoint is insufficient to handle its domestic operation. Please be aware the Jetstar Japan international flights check-in at a different part of the airport.

FDIS – most flights are operated by Jetstar Japan

Bus Depot for Jetstar Japan flights

I also snapped a picture of the Jetstar Japan check-in area at Osaka Kansai Airport, which is located next to JAL. The area was all deserted as the last morning flight to Okinawa had already departed when I took the picture. They have the kiosks here.
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RE: Tale Of Three Japanese LCCs MM/GK/JW 2013

Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:13 pm

Boarding Lounges:
Peach scores high for the best boarding lounge area at its hub. Tokyo Narita Airport possibly can’t give Air Asia Japan and Jetstar Japan spaces to develop a more stylish boarding louge, so Peach has an advantage by having its own terminal. The boarding lounges for domestic Peach flights are quite nice. There is a gift shop and a small café after security checkpoint. There are plenty of seats and working stations for passengers. I love the garden design. Boarding is also the most organized out of three airlines, and Peach is not overly zealous with its turnaround schedule. Since they interchange aircraft used for international and domestic flights, turnaround times seem to be a bit more reasonable. However some of the gates used by Peach can be faraway, and as the pictures show, the corridor can be long. We used gate 91 this afternoon, which was the furthest from the boarding station. Like most Japanese domestic airlines, boarding began about fifteen and twenty minutes prior to departure. For my flight to Sapporo Chitose airport, boarding began at 3:13pm. Since I don’t speak Japanese, I have no idea about the order, but since I bought an exit seat, I presume that I will have priority boarding and no one turned me away. From all the pictures I see, I presume they board the window seats first, followed by middle and finally aisle seats. There are no jetbridges at KIX Terminal Two, so you have to walk up the stairs. However I am surprised that none of these airlines use both doors for boarding. Air Asia Japan used the rear door for deplaning too, but both Peach and Jetstar only use the front entrance for boarding.

Here is Peach domestic departure lounge

I love the garden, but too bad we can’t sit outside.

The boarding gate setup

Three flights all depart near the same time – the 3:30pm rush

The corridor

More waiting at the end of the corridor


Air Asia Japan seems to be the most disorganized, and I still think a thirty minutes turnaround time at a busy airport like Chitose is simply overly optimistic. The gate arrangements are very complicated here, and when a plane at a nearby gate arrived, boarding had to be stopped, which was to allow arriving passengers to go first. Since a nearby Air Do flight to Sendai was delayed, as well as Jetstar Japan flight to Narita was also departing at the same time, the boarding area was chaotic. Simply bad arrangement and I don’t see any solution! Despite our plane actually landed on time at 6:40pm, we could not board until 7:01pm. Both Air Asia Japan and Jetstar Japan also have a higher non-Japanese speaking passengers ratio, so having only Japanese announcements slow things up too. I bought a “hot” seat so I just boarded with the first group. Just based on this boarding experience, I will stick with traditional airlines when I fly out from Sapporo in the future or try off-peak flights.

Boarding gate at Chitose

Glimpse of JA05AJ at Chitose

Jetstar Japan scores the lowest because Narita is its hub and the boarding area is just too small to handle the ten plus flights departing within ninety minutes.

Small boarding lounges

For all the flights, passengers are required to take a bus for a remote gate area. The advantage is to get to shoot these beautiful pictures, including JA11JJ, an A320 with sharklet. Too bad, JA11JJ was heading to Fukuoka this morning.

JA05JJ was in charge of this 7:25am departure to Osaka Kansai Airport. There was a staff at the entrance of the stairs but no one bothered me or other passengers from snapping away.

Out of all the flights, GK 103 actually boarded the earliest at 7am, but it took the longest to complete due to the location of the planes. At least they had plenty of buses on standby so they did not need to cramp the bus the way European airlines did.

Flight information
The one major difference between major and LCC airlines in Japan is that on time performance is not the strongest with most LCC operations. Given how both ANA and JAL suffer delays due to ATC frequently, the way Air Asia and Jetstar schedule its flight will only make things worst, except if you take the first flights that depart in the morning. I think you pay for what you get, so you just need to be patient. Peach seems to score the best out of all the LCCs in Japan and Kansai is a less crowded airport too. But I think you have to be reasonable when it comes to their schedule. For people doing flights run, please pad your schedule accordingly especially towards the end of the day.

MM 107 had the lowest loading out of all three flights, but lowest is relative, as there are only few scattered empty middle seats, and not people purchase the extra legroom seats of Row 1 and 13. Boarding door was closed at 3:24pm. There was no push back and the plane started up its engines at the apron and taxied straight towards R/W24L for takeoff. We took off at 3:41pm. From Kansai to Sapporo Chitose airport, the flight took an hour and thirty-nine minutes, and since they made zero English announcements, I got my flight information from flight radar. The flight headed towards Hirakata after takeoff before reaching an initial cruising attitude of 27,000feet, and then passing Koka and Hida before climbing to 37,000feet. We continued to cruise by Itoigawa and Sado Islands before decending toward 35,000feet, and then hitting Tobishima Islands, Katagami, Hirakawa, Aomori and than landing on Chitose.

Air Asia Japan flight 8528 became the only flight that both departed and arrived late during these three short flights, but given its rather unimpressive records, JW 8528 was pretty on time. As you might recall, boarding did not begin till 7:01pm. Door was closed at 7:18pm and pushed back two minutes later. Due to the proximity of the departure runway, we took off at 7:29pm for our one hour and fifteen minutes flight. There are English announcements this time and we stayed at 24,000feet throughout the flight. The pilot caught up some times and Narita was much quieter in the late evening hours.

Jetstar Japan flight 103 was filled to the brim and my exit row was filled with revenue passengers. The only empty seats are the two middle seats in the non-reclining exit rows – 12B and 12E. Door was closed at 7:26am and we pushed back three minutes later. We taxied to R/W34R at 7:33am and took off at 7:39am. Flying time was an hour and nine minutes, which was longer than the pilot’s announced fifty-five minutes. There was light turbulence throughout the flight, but we stayed at 36,000feet throughout the flight.

Finally a nice view of the wing

Cabin and Seats:
All three LCCs use Airbus A320s, which feature a very comfortable cabin. All three airlines use leather seats but in their respective color schemes. I personally like Peach’s purple and grey color scheme – unique but not overwhelming. Peach and Jetstar actually use the same slimline seats with the seat pocket located on the top of the seat, but the difference is that Peach has an additional literature pocket beneath the tray table. As we cannot put bags under the seat in front of us on exit rows in Japanese airlines operating flights, there are no where to put magazines or bottled drinks. I guess Jetstar thinks that F/As don’t need to clear out the magazine pockets, but given how strongly disciplined the Japanese are, I really think it is redundant, and most people will just throw the trash on the floor and make a bigger mess. IMHO, stupid idea! So out of all three airlines, Jetstar Japan has the poorest seat. Air Asia Japan uses the same seats as other Air Asia franchises – black leather seats and the first five rows and exit rows have the red headrest covers to different themselves from regular seats. However I was shocked to find out that Row 2 is sort of like an express seat with no extra legroom. I would have book the bulkhead or the exit row, if I cared more about legroom than getting off the plane earlier. I feel a bit misled by Air Asia promotions. However Air Asia seats seem to have more padding than the others.


Air Asia

Little legroom at Row 2


Jetstar Japan Cabin:

No seat pocket
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RE: Tale Of Three Japanese LCCs MM/GK/JW 2013

Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:15 pm

Flight Attendants:
Honestly LCCs usually equal to stressful F/As, who work long hours and service was the last thing one would expect from them. In the US, Jetblue, Southwest and Virgin America F/As are pretty good, but one can argue if they are even considered LCCs especially with the new breed of ULCCs like Spirit and Frontier. My experiences with Ryanair, Veuling, and Norwegian remind me that LCC means no service. They only smile if you buy from them. However most Asian LCCs are bit better, and my experiences with Air Asia, Tiger, and Jetstar are okay. Of course, just don’t expect Singapore Airlines type service. The Japanese LCCs fit that model, with the exception of the purser on my Jetstar LCC. I guess there is still a strong customer service culture in Japan.

Peach F/As are all very young, as they are truly a new airline, and Peach seems to be seeking newly hired, rather than hiring from F/As, who are forced to retire from the major airlines due to their age. Their uniforms make them look smart. Peach is the only airline that does not use a trash bag to collect trashes. The F/As walk down the aisle with trays collecting trashes. They actually walk up and down the cabin every ten to fifteen minutes. Other than the fact that they are selling food and beverage and cleaning the planes during the turnaround, they act like F/As working for JAL and ANA.

Air Asia Japan F/As are also very young and helpful. They wear the same Air Asia uniform but I find the makeup that the F/As wear a bit unusual. They are not the typical style used by Japanese airlines. I don’t know how to describe it, but I feel that they try to assimilate into the Air Asia parent company too much. That may explain why this venture is not working. They also make both English and Japanese announcements. In general, they are very polite and carry out all the duties. They have the heaviest workload especially doing two rounds of buy on board services. They all sat down after the service was completed.

Jetstar Japan hires older F/As – possibly those who are forced to retire after they reach certain age limit working for a major airline! In general, they are more experienced, but unfortunately they are more reserved and stuck in the old traditional airline frame of mind. The purser was really rude to me, as she tried to stop me from taking the photos of the cabin. Her English was so poor that she could not quite explain it to me. She said something about restricted area, which made no sense, as I just shot tons of pictures in the tarmac. I had a feeling that she just made up the rules. She did the Japanese bowing thing, but it was clear that it was not genuine. Thankfully she worked the first section of the cabin. The middle-aged male F/A working our section was friendlier, and Jetstar was the airline that actually did the emergency exit row talk, unlike Peach, in which the F/As did not say anything at all, except all the bags need to go to the overhead bins. Jetstar Japan basically adopted the same policy as their Australian parent. Even the card was the same, except there was a Japanese translation. The F/As were very disorganized, as they did not even manage to start the normal service. It was a short flight but why can’t they just take the beverage and food orders from the passengers, who qualified for free drink and beverage first? Since they walk to each passenger qualified for this service and tell them they can select a free beverage and drink, they might as well take their orders right at the spots, use a tray to deliver the food, and do the inventory. It was crazy to see them rolling that heavy carts up and down the aisle and then they kept on returning to the galley for missing items. There was no organization at all. So Jetstar Japan definitely scored the lowest in service.

Inflight/Buy On Board
All three airlines offer only buy on board service and only Air Asia and Jetstar had their own Japanese language magazines. There are also the typical menus. Air Asia is the only airline offering a pre-ordering service and that is the only way that you can reserve a hot meal. The regular buy on board service only features cold means, light snacks, and beverages. If you want a hot meal, you need to pre-reserve through I personally like Peach’s menus the best and they feature some unique items like Peach Ice Milk and Peach Danish that are cute and taste quite good. They have hot meals but only available on international flights and longer domestic flights to Okinawa, Ishigaki and Sapporo. Jetstar Japan has the more limited menus and on our short flights, the F/As only managed to serve the passengers, who pay for a fare with drink and snack included. Air Asia is the only airline that makes a second run for selling merchandises. Air Asia Japan is no difference from your Thai Air Asia flight. I personally find that it might be the reason why Air Asia Japan is not successful.

Peach – I bought the Ice Milk and Danish with tea combo. It was delicious. I also love its branding and out of three LCCs, Peach is the only one airline trying to establish a brand that is chic and cheap. It might be the reason why it is more successful.

Air Asia Japan – I like its pre-order system and I was served first too. You could now purchase up to two meals per passenger per flight. The western meal of Chicken came with a bread roll and a bottle of water. It tasted fine and I honestly bought it for the trip report.

The meal itself

Jetstar Japan


Descent began at 4:45pm and we landed on R/W19L at 5:20pm. We parked at a real gate with jetbridge at 5:28pm. The F/As actually had the waste trolley opened up, so passengers could dispose their trash too. The ground staff also bid their goodbyes at the jet bridges, which none of the other two airlines did. I had no check-in luggage so I can’t comment on how fast the baggage delivery service is.
JA804P at CTS

Descent began at 8:27pm and we landed on R/W16L at 8:44pm and quickly parked at a remote gate four minutes later. Both front and rear stairs are used for disembarkation. There were many buses taking passengers to the terminal, so no crowded bus! The baggage claim area is very basic, as expected, and there are two belts – one for Air Asia Japan and one for Jetstar Japan.


Baggage Claim at Narita

Descent began at 8:08am and we circled a bit before making a large roundabout at the Osaka Bay and landed on R/W24L at 8:48am. Unlike Peach, Jetstar parked at a real domestic gate next to other major domestic airlines. Our gate today was 25 in the North Concourse, and deplaned was fairly quick.

JA05JJ at KIX – thirty minutes, it went to Okinawa

In conclusion:
Peach definitely impresses me the most with a unique fun brand, as well as an efficient operation that truly knows its Japanese roots. It adopts from how LCCs operate around the world, but they also realize that the Japanese public has certain expectation with air carriers. It is still a customer-oriented society and people are polite. There are things that European LCCs can get away with that Japanese LCCs will not accept. I feel that it is creating a unique Japanese LCC brand that is affordable, efficient, and fun. The planes are smartly painted with comfortable seats. For the price I paid, I felt pretty good, and they will the first LCCs that I will not mind flying it again.

Air Asia Japan, IMHO, failed because it did not take account for the needs of the Japanese culture. They try too hard to force the airline to adopt everything from its parent company in Malaysia, which both passengers and crew operate under a very different frame of minds. Japanese are strict with the rules and the current schedule is a bit too unrealistic. In the end both Air Asia parent company and ANA are unhappy, and the passengers are not impressed. I really hope that Vanilla Air will completely revamp its service and try to learn from Peach.

Jetstar Japan is sort of doing a better job than Air Asia Japan, and JAL surely influences how the operations and services go on. They retain some elements of the parents company, such as the onboard procedures and services for A320s, while retaining some customer element. I felt that the F/As lack the energy of a new LCCs, and in reality, it is like an extension of JAL Express but with an even lower operating standard. JAL Express is like a lower cost brand of Japan Airlines, which operate mostly Boeing 737s and the F/As are younger and require to do more work, like cleaning the planes during turnaround. They still adopt the same service procedure as JAL, and for passengers, you are still flying JAL, and the service items are same as JAL domestic flights, and some 737s even have Class J. So Jetstar feels like an extension of that operation with a more LCC approach.

Honestly, I rank Peach the highest, with Jetstar Japan next, and Air Asia Japan the last. Personally I still prefer the traditional Japanese domestic airlines, aka ANA and JAL, as well as my favorite, Star Flyer. Air Do and Solaseed Airlines are good airlines too. It is so much cooler to get a real boarding pass and get to scan through all those cool machines. Anyway, it is a good experience and I am glad to get a flight on Air Asia Japan before its closing in November. I sort of look forward to the new Vanilla Air experience, and I hope ANA will completely introduce a new brand and forget about Air Asia.

I hope you enjoy this report.

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RE: Tale Of Three Japanese LCCs MM/GK/JW 2013

Thu Aug 29, 2013 8:59 pm

Awesome TR. Filled with so much good information. Thanks  
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RE: Tale Of Three Japanese LCCs MM/GK/JW 2013

Fri Aug 30, 2013 1:58 am

Thanks for the comparison, very interesting! Definitely a fan of peach flavoured stuff, so full marks to the airline for taking advantage of the name. But vanilla is even nicer...   Jetstar also had some omiyage items for sale.

Quoting Carfield (Reply 2):
Jetstar Japan hires older F/As – possibly those who are forced to retire after they reach certain age limit working for a major airline!
The purser was really rude to me, as she tried to stop me from taking the photos of the cabin. Her English was so poor that she could not quite explain it to me.
Jetstar Japan basically adopted the same policy as their Australian parent. Even the card was the same, except there was a Japanese translation.

My experiences with Jetstar Japan on NRT-MYJ were a little different. The attendants were quite young on my flight and very polite. One guy in particular was friendly and struck up an English conversation with me. The safety card differed from the Australian version - unfortunately - because I specifically noted the lack of an exception to allow the use of cameras at any time during flight. This came up when I too was requested to stop photographing, though mine was during descent. They had no problem with cabin or aerial shots and I was asleep during taxi so they never noticed me then.   IIRC service was a little haphazard but not anything too bad.
I like artificial banana essence!
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RE: Tale Of Three Japanese LCCs MM/GK/JW 2013

Fri Aug 30, 2013 7:42 am

Nice report, thanks for posting. It was also great timing as i'm flying Peach CTS-KIX next week. I'm glad you rated them the best! I'm really looking forward to them now after my very bland flight with NH last week. Upcoming flights: AMS-RIX-BUD-VDA,ETH-TLV-FCO-LHR,STN-TXL-LCY,LTN-CPH-LTN,LGW-SZG,MUC-LHR
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RE: Tale Of Three Japanese LCCs MM/GK/JW 2013

Sat Aug 31, 2013 2:48 pm

Hi Carfield,

Very interesting comparison here. Not sure how you remember all of the little details/differences.

Quoting Carfield (Reply 2):
I also love its branding and out of three LCCs, Peach is the only one airline trying to establish a brand that is chic and cheap

This is a noticeable distinction though. I couldn't help but notice the lack of branding on things like tissues/cups when I have flown GK. A minor issue perhaps but the branding on Peach's items make them that bit more appealing.

I am glad you rated Peach at the top.

Quoting allrite (Reply 4):
Quoting Carfield (Reply 2):Jetstar Japan hires older F/As – possibly those who are forced to retire after they reach certain age limit working for a major airline!
The purser was really rude to me, as she tried to stop me from taking the photos of the cabin. Her English was so poor that she could not quite explain it to me.
Jetstar Japan basically adopted the same policy as their Australian parent. Even the card was the same, except there was a Japanese translation.
My experiences with Jetstar Japan on NRT-MYJ were a little different.

I would have to agree with Allrite on this one. My experiences with GK have not been so bad.

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RE: Tale Of Three Japanese LCCs MM/GK/JW 2013

Sun Sep 08, 2013 8:26 am


Interesting TR, thanks for sharing

Next trip report: Well worn A330s and Hassle free MUC transfer

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