Budget carrier Vanilla Air will offer direct flights between Tokyo and Cebu by the end of the year, becoming the first Japanese airline to launch regular nonstop service to the central Philippine island.
The wholly owned ANA Holdings unit will operate once daily round-trip flights from Narita Airport to Cebu beginning Dec. 25. One-way fares will start at about 15,000 yen ($147), or around 50-70% lower than those of bigger airlines. The service will cater to demand from Japanese travelers seeking refuge in the tropical island’s year-round warm weather or looking to take English classes on short- to medium-term stints.
Regular direct service between Cebu and Narita is currently offered by Philippine Airlines, which operates two round-trip flights daily. The flag carrier is also in a code-sharing partnership with All Nippon Airways, ANA Holdings’ core subsidiary. Philippine budget airline Cebu Pacific also operates four round-trip flights a week.
Vanilla Air will market the low ticket prices and the convenience of daily flights to travel companies, citing the ease of putting together group tours and individual packages. Using that avenue together with direct internet sales, which Vanilla Air specializes in, the carrier aims for 80% seating capacities on the Cebu flights.
Japanese low-cost carriers have been centering their expanding networks on inbound demand mainly from such places as Taiwan and Hong Kong. At Vanilla Air, inbound demand accounts for 70-80% of ticket sales for international flights.
However, local carriers at those destinations have been aggressively adding routes. The rise of inbound ticket purchases has also slowed amid a strengthening yen.
Domestic competitors are differentiating themselves through special routes as well. Jetstar Japan, a joint venture between Japan Airlines and Australia’s Qantas Group, launched services from Osaka and Nagoya to Manila in April. Peach Aviation, of which ANA Holdings owns more than 38%, will connect to Shanghai from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and Kansai Airport serving Osaka beginning as early as November.
The Cebu-Narita line is one link in ANA Holdings’ business strategy. All Nippon Airways began offering international flights in 1986 and focused mainly on cultivating demand among Japanese business travelers flying to Asian and Western countries. In the fiscal year ended this past March, the airline surpassed JAL in international travelers for the first time.
Source and image: Nikkei