Low cost carriers in Japan increasingly challenging Shinkansen


Since low cost carriers in Japan took off, travel across the country has become cheaper, and now air travel is reportedly challenging bullet trains for a significant market share.

Peach Aviation Ltd, Jetstar Japan Co, and Air Asia Japan Co, are leading the charge for passengers who have traditionally been attached to the nation’s four high-speed rail operators.

With Peach planning to add flights in October between Tokyo and Osaka – a significant route which connects Japan’s best-known cities – businessmen and tourists could feel the upside as bullet train operators roll back fares.

Low cost carriers Peach and Jetstar Japan will offer 3,780 weekly one-way seats on the Tokyo-Osaka route, which they say cost about ¥4,200 ($42). Fares on the Shinakensen cost about ¥14,000 ($140) while overnight bus rides cost between ¥3,000-10,000.

But one challenge remains for low-cost carriers. Peach and Jetstar Japan are confined to far-flung airports, Tokyo Narita and Osaka Kansai.

Their main competitors, the more pricey All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, are more accessible, occupying berths at Tokyo’s Haneda airport and at Osaka Itami.

Bullet trains, on the other hand, are known for prompt city center departures and are near perfect on time performance, but passengers now increasingly have the ability to decide whether this efficiency is worth the cost.

Peach said it has tripled its fleet to nine planes since last year and had carried 2 million passengers as of May to seven domestic and three overseas destinations, reports Bloomberg.

That figure, though, remains equivalent to around 1% of the 307 million trips on the Shinkansen in the year ended March 2012.

“We’re not (only) targeting bullet-train passengers,” said Sayako Suetsugu, a spokeswoman for Peach. “We have a whole range of people who fly with us.”

by Maesie Bertumen

Image: GENuine86/Flickr



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