Tight Squeeze: JAL’s Budget Carrier to Pack in 9 Across on 787s

Aug 21, 2018

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One of Asia’s best airline’s is lowering its standards. In May, Japan Airlines (JAL) announced it would be launching a budget carrier, and now its executives are planning on making serious cutbacks to passenger comforts for the new airline.

JAL plans on launching the low-cost carrier, temporarily named TBL Co. Ltd., in the summer of 2020 — just in time for the Tokyo Olympic Games. It will use two Boeing 787-8s, likely taken from JAL’s current fleet that contains 29 of the widebody jets.

The Oneworld carrier is one of two airlines that’s configured its aircraft in a less dense 2-4-2 configuration for a total of eight seats across — with some seats measuring 19 inches wide. TPG contributor Katie Genter said JAL’s 787-8 is “hands down the best economy hard product” she’s experienced.

JAL’s has a 2-4-2 layout in economy on its Boeing 787s. Image by Katie Genter / The Points Guy.

Now, it plans on densifying the economy layout on aircraft for the new airline, turning it into a 3-3-3 configuration with nine seats across. ANA is the only other airline with some 787s laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration, although it’s moving toward a nine-across as well.

Right now, there are between 161 and 181 economy seats on JAL’s 787s plus 38 to 52 business and 35 premium economy seats, but the new layout will have 290 to 300 seats in coach.

JAL VP of global sales Steve Smith said that one of the airline’s primary reasons for starting a low-cost carrier was that its forecasts revealed that 50% of both Asian, European and North American long-haul markets would be taken by low-cost carriers.

“That’s one in every two seats,” Smith said. “We are a high-yield carrier and we are missing out on a big part of the market.”

The budget carrier will operate long- and medium-haul flights to the Americas, Asia and Europe. Following suit, JAL competitor ANA plans on creating Japan’s largest low-cost carrier under the “Peach” brand by March 2020 — merging the current Peach fleet with Vanilla Air’s short-haul fleet of A320s.

The airline also wants to greatly expand its route network, adding more than 150 new cities to increase its current offering from 343 to 500 overall. It plans on doing this mostly through partnerships and joint-ventures with other airlines like American, British Airways, Iberia and Hawaiian. It’s even working on a partnership with the giant SkyTeam carrier China Eastern Airlines.

H/T: Air Transport World

Featured image by Katie Genter / The Points Guy.

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