Date: October 29, 2017
Flight No.: DJ1
Route: Nagoya Centrair to Sapporo New Chitose
Airline: AirAsia Japan
Type: Airbus A320-200
When AirAsia Japan announced that it would finally be (re)starting operations, I decided to book the inaugural flight. The first flight was operated on the Nagoya Centrair to Sapporo New Chitose route – the airline’s sole route to date – on October 29, 2017.
To read more about the booking of the inaugural flight as well as positioning flights and accommodation, read the trip preview article here.
Checking-in the Day Before the Inaugural Flight
I arrived at Nagoya Centrair the evening before the inaugural flight onboard ANA’s 737-800. As I was walking out of the baggage claim area, I noticed the first sign of the new airline – an AirAsia “baggage tag recovery box.”
Once I got into the public area of the terminal, I looked for AirAsia Japan’s check-in counters. And, given the large AirAsia tail on the terminal windows and a large AirAsia sign hanging down from the ceiling, it wasn’t hard to find.
In fact, there were already some aviation enthusiasts photographing the area, and even some passengers checking-in. Not having printed my boarding pass at home, I checked-in as well.
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The Morning of the AirAsia Japan Inaugural Flight
The next morning, I woke up around 5AM, and left the hotel twenty minutes later. After a quick breakfast at Lawson’s convenience store, I headed to AirAsia Japan’s check-in counters.
When I got there, there were already quite a few people – including staff, passengers and media.
While those traveling with hand luggage could get their boarding pass from the self check-in machines, those that had a bag to drop off had to wait until 5:35AM when the counters opened.
Since I already printed my boarding pass the day before, after hanging out in the check-in area for a couple of minutes to get pictures, I headed airside through the deserted security.
With AirAsia’s flight to Sapporo being the first domestic flight of the day, the airside area of the domestic section at Centrair wasn’t exactly busy at 6AM either.
AirAsia Japan Inaugural Ceremony Before Boarding
At gate 2 where the flight was departing from, a ribbon and banners to celebrate the inaugural were already set up. AirAsia staff as well as some yurukyaras were already gathered there as well.
The atmosphere was festive and everyone was taking photos to document the occasion.
Then, shortly after 6:30AM – about one hour before the flight – the inaugural ceremony started with speeches from airline and airport representatives.
First, Mr. Osamu Hata, AirAsia Japan CEO, gave some remarks including thanking everyone involved and mentioning that passengers would be handed commemorative gift bags upon boarding.
Second, Mr. Funayama Toshihide, Nagoya Civil Aviation Bureau Chief, addressed the passengers and media. Besides the usual formalities of congratulating the airline and so on, he also went on to share a personal story:
On a personal note, I am very grateful that you chose Sapporo New Chitose as the first destination.
My parents’ house is in Sapporo, and I fly on to New Chitose several times a year. Oftentimes I’m told “you’re the Nagoya CAB chief, so you must be flying for free” – but that is, of course, not true.
I have to – like many others – save up money for the flights, and search online for the cheapest tickets.
And then, he used his background as an air traffic controller to explain that:
The IATA two-letter code of the airline is DJ. The ICAO three-letter code is WHJ. Callsign is WING ASIA. So, this flight will be WING ASIA 1.
After receiving take-off clearance from Centrair Tower, WING ASIA 1 will be handed over to Centrair Departure.
Then, it will go through Tokyo Control and Sapporo Control to Chitose Approach – which is handled by the Japan Air Self Defense Forces.
And, in the end, it will receive landing clearance from Chitose Tower.
With Mr. Funayama’s speech over, it was time for the last speech – by Mr. Masanao Tomozoe, Central Japan International Airport Co. President & CEO. Among other things – after saying that all of the things that needed to be said were already said by the previous two speakers – he jokingly said:
I am from Fukuoka. And, my parents’ house is in Fukuoka. So, please, consider also starting flights to Fukuoka.
After the speeches, it was time for the ribbon cut during which not only the three representatives and AirAsia cabin crew ambassadors were present, but also a number of yurukyara characters representing the airport and region.
Finally, it was time for a quick photo shoot.
Boarding the First AirAsia Japan Flight 1 to Sapporo
Boarding started at 7:06AM – about half an hour before departure. And, as promised by Mr. Hata in his speech earlier, all passengers were given a gift bag. (More about its contents later.)
After taking some photos, I joined the end of the fairly long line, and waited for my turn to board the flight. Within a couple of minutes, I got my boarding pass scanned and made my way to the jetway.
By this time, it was raining heavily.
The closer I got to the aircraft’s entrance, the louder it got. There was AirAsia “fan club” chanting: “AirAsia! Japan! AirAsia! Japan!”
At the same time, a musician was playing and singing Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis.
Outside, in spite of the heavy rain, the staff was holding a “Thank you for flying with us.” banner.
Once onboard, I settled in my randomly assigned aisle seat and waited for departure.
Departing Nagoya Centrair as WING ASIA 1
With all 166 passengers onboard (92.2% load factor), the cabin crew closed the doors at 7:53AM, and just a minute later made an announcement introducing the crew as well as mentioning the flight time of 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Then, at 7:57AM, we were pushed back and ready to go. While making our way to the runway, the cabin crew performed the manual safety demonstration.
A couple of minutes into the taxiing, the cockpit crew came on the PA and asked the cabin crew to prepare for take-off. And, at 8:10AM, we lifted off to the sound of the passengers’ clapping.
Some minutes after take-off, the cabin crew thanked the passengers for clapping and said that tray tables and seat reclining could be used from that point on. Then, at 8:25AM, the seatbelt signs were switched off.
AirAsia Japan Domestic In-Flight Service
Right after the seatbelt signs went off, the cabin crew sprung into action. First, pre-ordered meals were distributed with in-flight sales following later.
The offerings were as per the below catalog & menu.
With media representatives and aviation enthusiasts trying to document the first flight, the cabin crew found themselves surrounded by cameras throughout the service.
Since I didn’t preorder anything, and wasn’t planning on buying anything either, I took a closer look at the gift bag. Besides a boarding certificate, there was an AirAsia rice cake, and a couple of sample products made by AirAsia’s partners.
Arriving at Sapporo New Chitose Airport
At 8:43AM, the Captain made an announcement saying that we were flying over the city of Niigata at that point, and that we would be overflying Akita in about ten minutes. He also mentioned that we could expect to land at 9:30AM and arrive in blocks five minutes later.
The seatbelt sign was switched on at 9:07AM due to turbulence, not allowing the cabin crew to finish the in-flight service. As such, an announcement mentioning that those that preordered their meals but didn’t receive them would get refunds was made.
Just five minutes later, we started descending towards New Chitose airport, and at 9:23AM, the cabin crew was asked to sit down for landing.
We touched down in Sapporo at 9:27AM, and arrived in blocks with a ten minute delay at 9:35AM.
I (as well as other media representatives) waited for most of the passengers to disembark to get some photos of the empty cabin…
…and of the cabin crew.
Then, I got off the aircraft and headed into the terminal – walking by the gate where preparations for the return flight were already underway.
Once in the terminal, I took a quick look at AirAsia Japan’s check-in facilities before heading up to the observation deck to photograph the departure of the first DJ2 flight from Sapporo to Nagoya.
The return flight – scheduled to depart at 10:00AM – took off at 10:49AM.
With JA01DJ back in the air, I headed back inside the terminal to have a quick lunch before catching a Jetstar Japan flight back to Tokyo to bring the trip to an end. I will not be writing a review of that one, though, since I already reviewed Jetstar Japan a couple of months ago.