The Japanese LCCs: Air Asia Japan


Just another Air Asia A320, now flying in Japan

Air Asia Japan is back! After dumping its Vanilla Air effort and taking a short break the Asian LCC behemoth reestablished operations in Japan under its iconic red branding. This is now about using the much larger brand name to bring in customers, not about subtle marketing and “experience” appeal. We’ll know soon enough if it works.

The company flies only one route so far, between Nagoya and New Chitose Airport (CTS) in the north. Limited flights and times meant it was the first component of my trip booked even though it was segment four of five in the itinerary. It was cheap, as expected, which was nice. And the online booking process was relatively easy to work through, though occasionally the website dumped me back out of the Japanese options to other regional route lists.



The Nagoya airport has an awesome spotting deck and mall/food court. Unfortunately neither are open early enough to be useful for the 7:25a scheduled flight departure. But Air Asia allows pre-ordering meals so I had done that with my booking. Combine that with a rice ball from one of the coffee shops that was open inside security and maybe I wouldn’t go hungry after all.

Solid branding from Air Asia at Nagoya
Solid branding from Air Asia at Nagoya

Air Asia uses a hard stand for boarding so the priority call for my extra legroom seats wasn’t all that useful. But it was a beautifully sunny day so I’ll get over that, I suppose. The planes used are typical Air Asia A320 config inside with the bulkhead and exit rows offering tons of space and the other rows not so much. I settled in to 1F and eventually we were on our way.

Plenty of legroom at the bulkhead on Air Asia Japan
Plenty of legroom at the bulkhead on Air Asia Japan
Not so much with legroom in the regular seats on Air Asia Japan; no surprise there
Not so much with legroom in the regular seats on Air Asia Japan; no surprise there

The inflight service was a bit chaotic, with the crew handling the pre-ordered meals in a seemingly random order. I got mine about 20 minutes after the folks across the aisle got theirs. The meal itself mostly matched up with what was advertised (a little short on protein, but tasty), which is a good thing.

The Air Asia Japan meal was pretty similar to what is advertised. Plus, cheaper when pre-ordered.
The Air Asia Japan meal was pretty similar to what is advertised. Plus, cheaper when pre-ordered.


I was impressed by the partnership the carrier established with a small town just outside the Nagoya airport hub. They offer publicity for tours of the ceramic industry in the magazine. And, of course, merchandise to go along with it. Who can resist a cute cat pin?

I was also impressed that the point of sale system appears to be a pretty stock implementation of Square rather than a custom kit. It is all offline transaction processing because no connectivity on board but it worked pretty well. I have no idea how the back-end reporting for inventory and such works but given that Air Asia is pretty aggressive on such things I’ll assume it works well. That could be bad news for the companies still building dedicated sales solutions for airlines.

Shopping on board, and paying through Square
Shopping on board, and paying through Square

This was one of the longer flights on my Japanese LCC adventure and also one of the more scenic. Heading north we saw more mountains and snow and general landscape variation. I’m a big fan.

Views like this are why I always want a window seat
Views like this are why I always want a window seat
Shortly before landing at CTS airport in Hokkaido
Shortly before landing at CTS airport in Hokkaido

Scoring the Air Asia Japan experience:

Buying tickets: 3/5

Standard online booking, though the site got wonky a few times.

Check-in/preflight: 3/5

Rough flight times for a decent airport experience (though staying at a hotel next door to the terminal was pretty smart). And a hard stand is great for the airplane views but also reduces the overall priority boarding value.

On-board: 4/5

Great in the extra legroom seats. And my pre-paid meal was pretty good once the crew sorted that out.

Overall: 4/5

It is Air Asia. It is fine Really the same as I’ve seen everywhere else. Just in Japan this time.

More from my Japanese LCC Adventure

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .
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