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Japanese budget start-up ZIPAIR plans US flights despite coronavirus pandemic

April 23, 2020
2 min read
Photo taken during a media event at Narita airport near Tokyo on Dec. 18, 2019, shows a Boeing 787 plane to be flown by ZIPAIR Tokyo, a low-cost carrier under the Japan Airlines group, on its routes to Bangkok and Seoul in 2020.
Japanese budget start-up ZIPAIR plans US flights despite coronavirus pandemic
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At a time when most airlines can't pull down service fast enough, one Japanese start-up carrier has unveiled plans for a new U.S. route.

Budget carrier ZIPAIR plans to begin flights to Hawaii during its first year of service, though when that will occur depends on the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tokyo-based carrier is seeking a foreign air carrier permit from U.S. regulators that would allow it to begin flights to the country, ZIPAIR said in an application to the Department of Transportation on April 20. The airline plans to initially fly to Honolulu (HNL) from Tokyo's Narita (NRT) airport.

ZIPAIR, a subsidiary of Japan Airlines, will launch with a fleet of two Boeing 787-8s. The jets will be configured with 290 seats, including 18 lie-flat premium seats and 272 economy seats, according to the application.

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COVID-19 has put a question mark on ZIPAIR's plans. The airline has indefinitely postponed its first flight, between Tokyo and Bangkok (BKK), that was planned for May. But the carrier maintains plans to begin Seoul Incheon (ICN) service on July 1.

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ZIPAIR aims to begin flights to Honolulu around the end of October. However, those plans will depend on the lifting of travel restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus and the return of passenger demand for flights to Hawaii.

There is the possibility that ZIPAIR may not launch this year at all. Parent JAL has slashed domestic capacity nearly in half through May 6, and will fly just 6% of its international schedule through the end of May. The cuts include suspending all flights to Hawaii.

Whenever ZIPAIR does land in Hawaii, it will face stiff competition. All Nippon Airways (ANA), Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JAL, Korean Air and United Airlines all are due to fly between Tokyo and Honolulu in October, according to Cirium schedules.

ANA even operated a fleet of dedicated fleet of Airbus A380s on Honolulu flights before the crisis hit.

Related: Flying Honu to Hawaii: A Review of ANA’s A380 Business Class

Featured image by Kyodo News via Getty Images

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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees