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 airasia.com. 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
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.
JA05AJ at NRT
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
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.