Japan’s Zipair Plans Fourth U.S. Destination

Credit: Joe Pries

Long-haul LCC Zipair is to begin flying to San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which will become the Japanese airline’s second point in California and its fourth in the U.S.

The carrier, a subsidiary of Japan Airlines (JAL), intends to launch a nonstop service from its base at Tokyo Narita (NRT) using Boeing 787-8 aircraft seating 290 passengers.

The start date and planned frequency are yet to be confirmed, but flights are expected to begin during the upcoming summer season. SFO airport director Ivar Satero said the airport was “committed to making this new service a success.”

Zipair is a relatively new airline having launched operations less than three years ago. The carrier, which has a fleet of four 787-8s, initially began life as a cargo-only operation in June 2020 after the pandemic forced it to delay passenger flights.

However, since starting passenger service in October 2020, the LCC has grown its network to six destinations from Tokyo Narita and now flies to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, Honolulu, San Jose, Seoul Incheon and Singapore Changi.

The route to San Jose is the latest to join Zipair’s network and operates five times per week at the present time. The launch of the service in December came less than a month after the airline’s inaugural connection to Los Angeles.

Zipair’s entry to the Tokyo-San Francisco market will see it become the fourth operator of nonstop passenger flights between the cities. OAG data shows that parent JAL provides daily service to SFO from both Tokyo Narita and Haneda (HND), while All Nippon Airways (ANA) and United Airlines also provide the same level of service to SFO from NRT and HND.

In total, there are 20,118 two-way weekly seats available between Tokyo and San Francisco—about 22% higher than pre-pandemic levels. United commands a 38.4% capacity share, followed by JAL on 31.7% and ANA on 29.9%.

Sabre Market Intelligence figures show that total O&D traffic between the two cities totaled some 410,800 two-way passengers in 2019, equivalent to almost 563 passengers per day each way. About 71% of passengers traveled nonstop. Zipair will be seeking to capture a segment of the market seeking lower fares.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.