AirAsia secures investors for relaunch of Japan unit

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AirAsia has secured investor partners for the relaunch of AirAsia Japan, following the failure of its joint venture with All Nippon Airways (ANA) last October.

In an interview with Flightglobal, AirAsia’s group head of ground and inflight operations, Steven Dickson, says its new partners will be announced soon, as the group prepares for the launch of a new AirAsia Japan in 2015.

"The lesson learnt for us is let's not work with these airline partners again. Rather, let's find known airline investors that we can work with that actually understands the consumer facing business, and (what) commoditising a product is," says Dickson.

He would not disclose which airport the new Japanese operation would be based at, but ruled out basing it at Tokyo's Narita International airport.

The group now has a team of about 10 working in Japan, including a CEO and CFO for the upcoming unit.

Dickson does not believe that Japan is too crowded a space to enter, despite Jetstar Japan, Peach Aviation, Vanilla Air and a splattering of smaller local operators such as Air Do operating in the low-cost segment.

"It's all about making smart decisions, leveraging on the group's scale, getting the right aircraft deals, maximising our productivity from a local and group perspective and delivering the lowest costs," says Dickson.

By doing all that, the new AirAsia Japan will be "the lowest cost airline in Japan, by far, guaranteed".

Dickson adds that its former partnership with ANA "was not a match made in heaven", considering how the Japanese carrier is one of the highest cost airlines in the world, while AirAsia is on the other end of the spectrum. This clash in personalities and business models resulted in problems from early on in the partnership.

"There's no harm in making mistakes in business. We fell over, stood up again, dusted down, moving on. AirAsia number two will be something quite different," says Dickson.