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New JAL subsidiary to convert passenger flights into cargo-only services

An aircraft owned by ZIPAIR Tokyo Inc. which will be used as a cargo-only carrier is shown in this photo taken on March 16, 2020. (Mainichi/Tadakazu Nakamura)

NARITA, Chiba -- A low-cost carrier (LCC) subsidiary of Japan Airlines Co. announced that it will commence operations of its passenger flights as cargo-only carriers between Bangkok and Narita Airport on June 3.

ZIPAIR Tokyo Inc. postponed its first passenger plane services planned for May 14 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, and will instead operate a cargo-only carrier as its first commercial flight to respond to robust demand in airfreight transportation.

A Boeing 787-8 aircraft will make four round trips per week, while flying without any passengers. The cargo compartment located in the belly of the plane will be loaded with up to 20 metric tons of freight, including automobile parts and electronic devices in carriers departing Narita, and perishable foods and clothing in carriers departing Bangkok.

President Shingo Nishida commented, "Unfortunately, under current circumstances we are unable to realize our wish of welcoming customers onto our passenger flights. After thinking about what we can do in this current situation, we have decided to take our first step as an airline by flying cargo-only carriers."

Thailand has banned international flights from landing at its airports until June 30, and ZIPAIR has not decided on the commencement date of passenger flights to Bangkok, which was pushed back. Flights between Narita Airport and Seoul, which are set to open on July 1, may also be postponed.

Behind the company's decision to fly cargo-only carriers to Bangkok was also the aim to have pilots gain more training experience. "As a new airline, we will make thorough preparations until operations of passenger flights can begin," said President Nishida.

ZIPAIR Tokyo, which markets itself as an LCC that flies on long- and medium-distance international routes, aims to establish a third route from Narita to Honolulu from October onward.

(Japanese original by Tadakazu Nakamura, Narita Bureau)

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