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Japanese Low-Cost Carrier ZIPAIR to Launch Nonstop Flights to San Francisco

The low-cost carrier plans to begin a nonstop passenger service between Tokyo Narita and San Francisco later this year

by Fergus Cole

February 28, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of ZIPAIR

Japanese low-cost, long-haul carrier ZIPAIR has announced plans to add San Francisco as its fourth U.S. destination. The low-cost subsidiary of Japan Airlines plans to begin operating direct flights between Tokyo Narita International Airport (NRT) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) this summer. However, an exact launch date has yet to be confirmed.

ZIPAIR launched nonstop services to nearby San Jose Airport in December. With the addition of San Francisco, the Japanese carrier will increase its presence into the Bay Area — an important area for the Japanese  market.

The airline plans to use a Boeing 787-8 aircraft to operate the 5,000+ mile route, which has a total capacity of 290 passengers, including 18 fully-reclinable Business Class seats.

Photo: Courtesy of Boeing Global Services

“We are truly excited to welcome ZIPAIR service between SFO and Tokyo this summer,” said Ivar C. Satero, Airport Director at SFO. “With this move, travelers can enjoy ZIPAIR’s fantastic value together with SFO’s award-winning, world-class airport experience. We thank ZIPAIR for choosing SFO and are committed to making this new service a success.”

ZIPAIR is a relative newcomer to the airline industry, founded in the summer of 2018. It was forced to delay the launch of passenger services due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, initially operating just cargo flights that year. However, it began operating commercial passenger flights in late 2020, and its fleet of four Boeing 787-8s now flies to six international destinations worldwide.

Thee Japanese carrier currently flies from its central hub at Tokyo Narita to Bangkok (BKK), Seoul-Incheon (ICN), Singapore Changi (SIN), Honolulu (HNL), Los Angeles (LAX), and San Jose (SJC). San Francisco is set to become its seventh destination and fourth in the U.S.

ZIPAIR Inaugural San Jose Airport / Photo: Courtesy of ZIPAIR

The Japanese carrier will face intense competition on the Tokyo to San Francisco route, as nonstop flights between the two cities are already operated by three airlines. United Airlines, All Nippon Airways (ANA), and Japan Airlines (JAL) all operate passenger services between SFO and both Tokyo airports – Narita and Haneda (HND). However, Zipair will become the first low-cost carrier to connect the two cities.

In addition to the San Francisco service, ZIPAIR announced plans to launch direct flights to Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) in the Philippines later this year.

“San Francisco has a very strong demand from both Japan and Asia, Manila is seeing an increase in traffic to and from Japan, and more and more people are heading from the Philippines to North America,” said Shingo Nishida, President of Zipair.