Inaugural flight in the age of Covid: only two passengers onboard the B787


October 16, 2020 / Two passengers only on the airline’s inaugural flight. That was the outcome, today, of Zipair’s flight ZG 41 between Tokyo Narita and Seoul Incheon. The history of the low-cost arm of Japan Airlines (JL) is indeed a very particular and quite misfortunate one, so far. Probably, the symbol of the plights that airlines and commercial aviation more at large are experiencing in these tough times as a consequence of the Covid pandemic and the travel bans issued by most of the Countries around the world.

Founded with much (and, why not, justified) fanfare in 2018, in September 2019 the carrier announced the start of operations for February 2019, with flights to Bangkok and Seoul ahead of services to Honolulu and the continental US. Then came the Covid. And the two Boeing 787-8 already arrived into the fleet, remained grounded until June 2020. When, not seeing the light for the start of passenger operations, ZG started using its Dreamliners as cargo between Tokyo Narita, Bangkok and Seoul.

The odyssey of the low-cost airline apparently ended today, as Zipair finally inaugurated its Tokyo Narita-Seoul passenger service. Flight ZG 41 departed Narita at 9.32 after the traditional water cannon salute by the Japanese airport’s fire squad and touched down at Seoul Incheon at 11.37. A smooth operation, ended with a ten minutes early arrival. What more could Zipair ask for, on its inaugural flight? Passengers…

As a matter of fact, only two of them travelled today on ZG 41: a Japanese man and a Korean woman, both seated in the Business Class section of the cabin, featuring lie-flat seats. Unperturbed by the low turnout of the inaugural, Zipair’s President, Shingo Nishida, announced in a company official note the addition of a third weekly rotation on the NRT-ICN route starting on October 25, with flights running every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Bangkok should follow soon. Regarding longer-range routes, ETOPS permission was obtained on October 5, and Nishida told himself confident in the possibility of launching Honolulu in November: “Since some procedures remain, we hope to be ready on October 25. But there are still some things that will take some time. We will be ready in early November and will wait for the ban on Hawaii to be lifted”. 

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