Link to serve western Japan and work with StarFlyer

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Japanese start-up airline Link plans to serve destinations in western Japan and is likely to collaborate closely with full-service carrier StarFlyer.

Co-operation with StarFlyer will come in two phases, says Link's chief executive Koichi Sugiyama on the sidelines of Japan Aerospace 2012.

Before Link begins operations in 2013, StarFlyer will assist the carrier in setting up its operations. In the second phase, the co-operation could include strategic areas such as route and network planning, says Sugiyama.

Link said on 9 October that it will lease three ATR 72-600 aircraft. It has not decided on a base, but the company plans to move its headquarters from Tokyo to Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu, where StarFlyer is also based.

Link's aircraft will have the biggest seat pitch among Japan's regional carriers, says Sugiyama. While affordability will be important, Link wants to ensure a comfortable passenger experience, he adds.

As Link will be the first airline to use ATR aircraft in Japan, it needs to obtain the type certification for the aircraft. Link is also applying for an air operator's certificate.

These requirements mean that Link is unlikely to commence service until after mid-2013, says Sugiyama.

He declined to name the aircraft lessor or provide details of Link's financial backers. He says, however, that Link is owned both by private investors and "famous companies" involved in Japan's "transport industry".

He adds that non-disclosure agreements with Link's investors precludes him from revealing their identities and that the company has no foreign shareholders.