Low-cost airline AirAsia Japan to relaunch later this month

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SINGAPORE (Oct 16): Low-cost airline AirAsia Japan on Monday said it would begin its first flights from Nagoya later this month, more than two years after Malaysia's AirAsia Bhd announced plans to re-enter the Japanese market with new partners.

A prior AirAsia Japan, a joint venture with Japanese carrier ANA Holdings Inc, was dissolved in 2013 and used as the basis for the launch of ANA subsidiary Vanilla Air.

AirAsia owns 49% of the new AirAsia Japan, which has two Airbus SE A320 narrow body aircraft and will be based at Nagoya. The other partners include Rakuten Inc, Octave Japan Infrastructure Fund I GK, Noveir Holdings Co Ltd and Alpen Co Ltd.

The airline had received an air operator's certificate in 2015 and had initially expected to start flying in the first half of 2016.

However, AirAsia Japan had been waiting until now for final regulatory approvals to launch in a market where it will rival ANA's low-cost carriers Vanilla and Peach as well as the Jetstar Japan joint venture between Japan Airlines Co and Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd.

"It's great to be back in Japan," AirAsia Group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said in a statement. "It hasn't been easy ... Many people thought we would give up and not bother but we owe it to the people of Japan and our staff to keep going."

AirAsia Japan's first flights, twice-daily between Nagoya and Sapporo, are set to begin on Oct 29.