OSAKA -- Budget airline Peach Aviation will base flights out of Hokkaido's New Chitose Airport as early as 2018, with international routes under consideration as well to serve the growing number of foreign visitors to the northern Japanese island.
The Osaka-based carrier will be able to fly out of New Chitose in the early morning by parking aircraft there overnight, resulting in a more convenient flight schedule. Peach hopes to lock in demand among visitors to Hokkaido's many popular tourist destinations.
Peach currently bases flights out of Kansai Airport near Osaka and Naha Airport in Okinawa, with plans to start at Sendai Airport in Miyagi Prefecture next summer. The carrier connects New Chitose to Kansai Airport and the Tokyo area's Narita Airport.
The airline also operates overseas routes to Hong Kong and South Korea's Incheon, and will start flying to Shanghai in November. It is expected to consider connecting New Chitose to overseas Asian destinations as well. Peach plans to expand its fleet from 17 planes currently to about 40 by fiscal 2020.
Peach also may become the first low-cost carrier to connect different cities within Hokkaido. Five current routes are affiliated with Japan Airlines and six with ANA Holdings' All Nippon Airways, but Peach expects to cultivate new demand with its low rates.
Peach's nonconsolidated operating profit surged 120% for the fiscal year ended in March to a record 6.1 billion yen ($59.2 million).