Why LCC in Japan?
Japan had very few airline companies and Japanese domestic markets virtually dominated by only two companies (JAL and ANA) for many years.
Japan Airlines (JAL) is a flag carrier of Japan, but the largest airline company has been replaced by All Nippon Airways (ANA) today.
It was an old and protected market and air travel in Japan has been pricey due to this reason. People prefer Shinkansen (bullet train) to airplanes when travelling in Japan.
Shinkansen is surely a convenient and comfortable transport, but having said that more than 3 hours journey in Shinkansen (From Tokyo to Osaka for 2 and half hours for your reference) is a bit hard and tiring job to do.
So, most people hesitate to travel by Shinkansen from Tokyo to somewhere beyond Osaka. So, what option have they got?
The best option would be LCC. Using LCC (low-cost carrier), you can go anywhere in mainland Japan from Tokyo in 2 hours. It's within 4 hours to Hokkaido and Okinawa from Tokyo. Thanks to this option, travelling in Japan is much easier than before.
Today, not only Japanese LCC also foreign LCC companies are expanding business in Japan, which means air travel in Japan is cheaper and easier now.
Let's explore in Japan by LCC!
Where to fly from/to?
As is often the case with LCC, airports used by LCC flights are often located far from the central part of the city. Major cities in Europe have more than one airports and normally the second or sometimes the third airports are for LCC. Is Japan the same?
How can I go from here?
Don't worry. In Japan, the situation is slightly different. Most cities have only one airport and of course, it's for LCC as well.
Tokyo is probably only one exception and has two airports which are Haneda and Narita. And the majority of LCC flights is flying from Narita airport which is about 50km off Tokyo. It's a bit far, but you can still access to central Tokyo within 1 - 1.5 hours. For further information, please see this blog.
No need to worry when you arrive at other local cities as mentioned. You can comfortably get to the city centre from the airport.
LCC You Should Use in Japan
1. Peach Aviation (Vanilla Air)
Peach Aviation is LCC based in Kansai International Airport in Osaka. It's quite a new airline established in 2011.
While Vanilla Air is based in Narita Airport in Chiba (Tokyo area) and also very new airline since 2013.
Please note that Vanilla air will be merged by Peach Aviation and all current Vanilla flights will be operated as Peach Aviation's flight from October 2019.
This is Peach's route map.
Basically, major Japanese cities are all covered by direct flights from Osaka. Also, the flight from Tokyo to Osaka will be useful as well. This route is undoubtedly the busiest flight route in Japan (for 70 minutes flight) and always competing with Shinkansen (bullet train) to attract passengers for many years.
Actually, total journey time between Shinkansen (bullet train) and the flight is almost the same. But, while Shinkansen ticket is quite limited for the discount (i.e. same price all the year), LCC tickets can be cheaper if you buy well in advance. That's a good point to consider taking LCC from Tokyo to Osaka rather than Shinkansen.
If you fly from Tokyo to Hokkaido or Okinawa, Vanilla Air should be the first option to consider. Here's Vanilla's route.
This Australian LCC giant came to the Japanese market in 2012 and has been growing faster than any other LCC in Japan.
Today, Jetstar Japan has the largest number of passengers and routes in Japan. Here's the route map of Jetstar.
Basically, it's very good access to everywhere especially if you fly from Tokyo to the western part of Japan. While there's a limited route (the only flight to Hokkaido) in the eastern part.
Also, Jetstar often offers the cheapest fare of all LCC in Japan. They tend to charge more on luggage and other additional services (in-flight meal etc). If you don't need such things, you will likely to enjoy the best price with Jetstar.
3. Spring Japan
The fast-growing LCC markets in Japan attracts Chinese LCC as well. Spring Japan has only 3 routes from Narita (Tokyo area) which are to Hiroshima, Saga and Sapporo so far, but it is likely to expand its flights in near future.
Spring Japan is famous for its flash sale. If the timing of your flight is good, you might get the super cheap fare.
Not Only Japan. Let's explore further!
LCC industry has seen rapid growth last decade in Japan. But, as you can see above, many new non-Japan LCC airlines open a route to Japan. This means the access to other Asian countries from Japan is much easier than before.
Now the number of foreign tourists coming to Japan is increasing at unprecedented speed. One of the main reasons is due to this. Japan is closer to them today.
How about visiting another country from Japan when you visit Japan next time. It's cheaper and easier than you think.
These are just some examples of 'Plus One' trip from Japan.
South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong - Peach
Australia - Jetstar
Shanghai - Spring Japan
Vietnam - Vietjet Air
Singapore - Scoot
LCC is definitely one of the best option to consider when you travel inside Japan. Also, please try to visit another Asian country from Japan. That's also easy to do now. Have a nice trip!
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