Skies of Japan: Aviation News from Japan – May 2019 (Video & Full Transcript)

Skies of Japan: What Happened in Japanese Aviation in May 2019?

Today – as you can see from the cover image – I have a slightly different post than usual.

After considering putting more effort (or maybe I should say “at least some effort”) into my YouTube channel for quite a while now, I finally decided to do so – starting with a monthly show titled Skies of Japan.

In Skies of Japan, I will be bringing you the latest news from the Japanese aviation market every month. Topics covered will include news about Japanese airlines, airports, and other commercial aviation-related organizations, as well as updates about foreign airlines’ operations in Japan.

Going forwards, I plan to post other aviation-related videos on the channel as well, so make sure to subscribe if you haven’t done so yet.


Skies of Japan: Aviation News from Japan – May 2019

The first episode of the show covers what happened in the world of Japanese aviation in May 2019 including:

  • ANA introducing its Airbus A380 into scheduled service
  • ANA’s two low-cost subsidiaries, Peach Aviation and Vanilla Air, merging
  • Three new special liveries taking to the skies for the first time
  • JAL announcing its first “First Sunrise” flight out of Honolulu
  • The US Department of Transport tentatively awarding 12 new daytime slots to Haneda
  • Four foreign airlines announcing new scheduled flights to Japan



Full Show Transcript & Additional Information

Below is a full transcript of the May 2019 episode. Supplemental information not included in the video itself is indented and in grey font.

Intro (00:00)

Hello everyone and welcome to my new show Skies of Japan where I plan to share the latest from the world of commercial aviation here in Japan with you every month.

My name is Keishi Nukina and besides starting this show today, I also run a website called KN Aviation where I share a lot of flight reviews, airport lounge reviews, and things like that. So if that’s something that interests you, make sure to check it out. I will be linking to it down in the description.

If you want to learn more about me – how I got into aviation and started this website, what publications my work has appeared in and so on, you can check the “about me” page.

On this show, we’ll be talking about what’s going on with Japanese airlines, airports, aircraft manufacturers. And, we’ll also be keeping a tab on what foreign airlines are doing here in Japan. Whether it is starting new routes, opening new lounges, so on and so forth.

Going forwards, I also plan to put out some other aviation-related content here on YouTube, so if you haven’t done so yet, please subscribe.

Today, we’ll be talking about what happened in Japan in the month of May. The first topic we’ll cover is ANA’s introduction of its A380 into service which is, perhaps, the biggest news of the month. And, we’ll also talk a bit about Peach and Vanilla Air, ANA’s two low-cost subsidiaries, merging. We’ll also cover a bunch of other news, so let’s get started.

ANA Introduces the A380 into Scheduled Service (01:04)

Let’s start with the main news of today and that is ANA introducing its first Airbus A380 into service. The airline ordered three of these superjumbos back in 2015 in what was most likely a move to save Skymark Airlines – another Japanese airline – from bankruptcy.

From that point it was already known that ANA would be using these superjumbos exclusively on routes between Tokyo Narita and Honolulu airport in Hawaii. And, because of that, rather than painting them in the standard ANA Triton Blue livery, it decided to run a contest with the general public where people would submit ideas for Hawaii-themed liveries that the airline could paint the A380s into.

After getting more than 2,000 submissions, it decided to go with a livery called Flying Honu which is based on the Hawaiian sea turtle. And, later on, it became known that rather than just the first aircraft wearing the new livery, it would actually be all three of the A380s. So it was a bit of a bittersweet news for plane spotters and other aircraft enthusiasts since that meant that an A380 in the regular Triton Blue livery would never actually see the light of the day.

On a positive note, though, ANA decided to paint each of the A380s in a different color, so we will be able to see Flying Honu in blue color, emerald green, and orange once they are all delivered.

Each of the three A380s represents a different “character.” The blue Hawaiian sea turtle is called “Lani,” the emerald green one is “Kai,” and the orange one is “Ka La.” You can learn more about the livery in an article I published here a while back.

The first of the A380s was delivered to ANA back in March, and with that – now that Airbus has cancelled the A380 program – ANA has become the last ever airline to introduce the type into its fleet directly from the manufacturer.

After dozens of training flights that the aircraft’s done from its base in Tokyo Narita to Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, and even Honolulu, the aircraft finally entered into service on May 24th on flight NH184 out of Tokyo Narita bound for Honolulu.

Besides allowing ANA to increase capacity on this very popular holiday route, it also gave it a chance to slightly revamp its onboard product. So ANA’s introduced new first class, business class seats on the aircraft, and so on.

The ANA A380’s equipped with a total of 520 seats. The whole main deck is taken up by 383 of those, all in economy class. Some of those turn into couches. The upper deck features 8 redesigned first class seats, 56 staggered business class seats, and a large premium economy cabin with a total of 73 seats.

On the day of the first flight, ANA also opened a new lounge at Honolulu airport to accommodate for the larger capacity of the A380. Most noteworthy is the fact that now passengers can board the A380 directly from the lounge.

Currently, ANA operates the A380 between Narita and Honolulu three times a week but that’s going to increase to ten rotations a week on July 1st. ANA has already received its second A380 as well, and it’s expecting to take delivery of the final third, final, A380 in 2020 at which point it will be able to increase the capacity to Honolulu even further.

Peach Aviation and Vanilla Air Begin Their Integration (03:55)

Continuing, let’s take a look at the merger of Peach Aviation and Vanilla Air – another major thing happening in the aviation market here in Japan right now.

The owner of both of the low-cost carriers, ANA, decided to merge the two of them – the Osaka-based Peach and Narita-based Vanilla Air – back in March 2018, and it announced that Peach would be the surviving brand. While the process is not expected to be finished until October 26th when Vanilla Air will operate its last flights, it is already well underway because of how complicated and complex it is.

Back in April, one of Vanilla Air’s 15 Airbus A320s was ferried to Kuala Lumpur where its currently undergoing cabin and cockpit reconfiguration so that it’s up to Peach’s specification. And, once the aircraft is repainted into the pink livery of Peach, it will return to Japan where it will join the airline as its 25th Airbus A320. More of Vanilla Air’s aircraft are expected to go through this process as well at a pace of roughly two-and-a-half months per aircraft.

Besides the fleet integration, the two airlines are also in the process of integrating their route networks which is why in May, Vanilla Air cancelled some of its routes including the routes from Osaka to Amami Oshima and to Taipei, from Tokyo to Naha and Hong Kong, as well as from Naha to Ishigaki and Taipei. All of the routes except for the Tokyo to Hong Kong route are expected to be restarted by Peach later this year, most of them pretty soon – in June.

You can find details about the route network integration – which routes will be terminated by Vanilla Air on what days and when Peach will restart them – in Vanilla Air’s press release here.

Quick News from Japanese Players in the Aviation Market (05:15)

Now, let’s briefly go over the smaller news from the Japanese players in the commercial aviation market here.

ANA Takes Delivery of Its First 777 Freighter and Plans Domestic Cabin Revamp

On May 24th, ANA took delivery of the first of its two Boeing 777 freighters. The second one is expected to join ANA’s fleet later this year, and ANA Cargo plans to use these aircraft both on routes within Asia as well as to North America.

Staying on the topic of ANA, the airline will be reconfiguring eight of its 777-200s and eleven of its 787-8s that it uses for domestic flights with new cabins. While doing so, it will also be increasing the number of Premium Class seats that each of the aircraft features. Most notably, each of the new Premium Class seats will feature a 15.6-inch in personal screen which will be the largest one that ANA’s used in its domestic aircraft to date. The new economy class seats will be equipped with 11.6-inch personal screens as well, and they will also offer a universal power outlet to every single passenger.

ANA expect’s the reconfiguration process to start in the fall of this year, and it expects it to be done by the first half of fiscal year 2022.

Japan TransOcean Air Retires Its Last 737-400

Continuing, on May 26th, Japan TransOcean Air operated its last flight with the Boeing 737-400. The farewell flight which departed Naha airport, overflew Yonaguni airport, and landed at Ishigaki airport before overflying Miyako and Kumejima airports and then landing back in Naha gave more than 100 passengers the chance to experience the Boeing 737 Classic for one last time.

With that, the airline’s 25 year history with the 737-400 is over, and now the sole type in JTA’s fleet is the 737-800 of which it operates 12 airframes. At the same time, with JTA no longer operating 737 Classics, ANA Wings is the last airline in Japan to operate the classic version of the most popular jet airliner.

Three New Special Liveries Enter into Service

On a lighter note, in May, three new special liveries took to the skies for the first time.

First, Skymark Airlines put a 737 promoting Vissel Kobe, which is a Japanese soccer team, into service on May 14th. The aircraft is expected to wear the livery until the end of 2020.

Next, JAL introduced what could be considered its answer to ANA’s Hawaii -related marketing efforts, the “ARASHI HAWAII JET.” The 787-9 featuring the popular Japanese boy band Arashi carried passengers for the first time on May 22nd from Tokyo Narita to Honolulu. The “ARASHI HAWAII JET” is expected operate until around until December 2020, and it’s mainly going to be seen on flights from Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka to Honolulu.

You can find more details about Arashi Hawaii Jet on JAL’s page dedicated to the aircraft (Japanese only).

Finally, on the last day of the month, J-Air – JAL’s regional subsidiary – introduced its “Minion Jet 2,” its second collaboration with Universal Studios Japan. The plan is for the livery featuring the popular characters from the movie Despicable Me to be around until June 2020.

Besides sporting the Minion Jet 2 livery, passengers traveling on the aircraft will also be served drinks in Minion-themed cups and presented with Minion-themed boarding certificates. You can find more information and pictures on JAL’s page dedicated to the aircraft (Japanese only).

JAL Announces Its First “First Sunrise” Flight Out of Honolulu

The last news of this segment  takes us to Hawaii once again, since on May 14th, JAL announced that next year, it will operate a “First Sunrise” flight out of Honolulu for the first time ever.

“First Sunrise” flights are a longstanding tradition of Japanese airlines. They’re essentially sightseeing flights that many Japanese airlines including ANA and JAL offer on January 1 of every year. And, the flights allow passengers to see the first sunrise of the year from the air, oftentimes somewhere around Mt. Fuji.

The Hawaiian “First Sunrise” flight on January 1st, 2020, will be operated for JAL by Hawaiian Airlines using one of their Boeing 717 aircraft and it will depart from Honolulu airport. The flight will allow its passengers to see the first sunrise in the vicinity of Mauna Kea before landing back at Honolulu airport.

Quick News About Foreign Airlines’ Presence in Japan (08:40)

Finally, in this last segment, let’s take a look at the noteworthy news regarding foreign airlines operating into Japan.

US DOT Tentatively Awards New Slots to Tokyo Haneda

Let’s start in the United States where the Department of Transportation tentatively awarded the twelve new daytime slots between Tokyo Haneda and the United States that are expected to become available sometimes before the 2020 Olympics.

Tentatively, Delta Air Lines was awarded five slots, allowing it to fly between Haneda and Atlanta, Detroit, Honolulu, Portland, and Seattle. United was awarded four, for flights between Haneda and Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark, and Washington DC. And finally, American Airlines was awarded slots for flights from Dallas and Los Angeles, and Hawaiian Airlines was awarded a slot for an additional rotation between Tokyo Haneda and Honolulu.

We’ll be taking a closer look at these flights once the decision is final, though.

Hawaiian Airlines Announces Plans to Restart Honolulu – Fukuoka Flights

Staying in the United States, Hawaiian Airlines announced its decision to restart flights  between Honolulu and Fukuoka, a route that it used to operate between April 2012 and June 2014.

While the route is still subject to government approvals, Hawaiian Airlines plans to start operating the route before the end of this year, probably sometime around November. The airline plans to connect the capital of Hawaii with the largest city on the island of Kyushu four times a week. Unlike in the past when the flights between Honolulu and Fukuoka used to be operated by the Boeing 767-300ERs, the new flights will be operated by the newer A330-300.

Currently, Hawaiian Airlines operates flights to both of Tokyo’s airports, as well as to Osaka and Sapporo, and so, Fukuoka will be the airline’s fifth destination in Japan.

Nepal Airlines to Launch Kathmandu – Osaka Route

Continuing, Nepal Airlines is another airline that announced a new route to Japan. Its new flight from the Nepalese capital Kathmandu to Osaka Kansai airport will take off for the first time on July 4th, and it will operate every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from that point on.

The airline, which used to be known back then as Royal Nepal Airlines, used to operate to Kansai airport about twelve years ago. Back then, it operated the flights through Shanghai, though. The new service will be the only non-stop route between Japan and Nepal, and so it will provide a valuable connection between the two countries.

El Al Israel Airlines Announces Plans to Serve Tokyo Narita

On the other side of the world, El Al announced that it will be launching scheduled flights between Tel Aviv and Tokyo Narita in March 2020. The airline plans to operate the flights three times a week using its 787-9 aircraft. While charter flights between Israel and Japan are fairly common, El Al’s new flight will be the first scheduled link between the two countries.

Turkish Airlines Plans to Restart Service to Osaka and Increase Frequency to Narita

One last airline that we’ll cover starting new routes to Japan is Turkish Airlines. On May 22, it announced that starting on April 14, 2020, it will be starting a route between Istanbul and Osaka Kansai airport. Initially, the flights will be operated four times per week before increasing to five rotations per week from June 2020.

The airline used to connect the two cities using Airbus A330 until 2016 when it terminated the route. This time around, it will be using its new Boeing 787-9 aircraft. It will also be using the Dreamliners to increase the frequency of its Istanbul to Tokyo Narita flights going up from the current seven to eleven weekly rotations.

Outro (11:37)

Alright, so that’s it for May. As you can see, it’s been a fairly interesting and eventful month for Japanese aviation, and hopefully that will be the case next month as well. I hope you found this show useful and that you will return for the next episode.

As mentioned in the introduction, I also plan to start posting other aviation-related videos, so, if you haven’t done so yet, please subscribe to this channel.

And, if you haven’t had enough aviation for today, also make sure to head over to my website over at

Anyways, that’s it for today, so thank you for watching and see you in the next video.

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