Japan capacity up 29% from 2008 to 2017; international increase outpaces domestic demand, South Korea fastest growth market in 2017


Two-way seat capacity on all flights serving Japan increased by 29% from 2008 to 2017. International capacity outpaced domestic demand over this period, increasing by 46% compared to 19% growth on internal links. A recent international addition saw Tigerair Taiwan begin a sector from Taipei Taoyuan to Saga in Japan on 29 July. Among those present at the launch were Zhang Hongzhong, Chairman, Tigerair Taiwan (back row, left) and Yamaguchi Xiangyi, Governor of Saga (back row, centre).

There were 310.87 billion Available Seat Kilometres (ASKs) generated on all flights serving Japan in 2017. This represented a 22% increase over 2008 levels. During this period, domestic ASKs grew by 23% from 90.10 billion to 111.20 billion. Meanwhile, international ASKs increased from 163.80 billion in 2008 to 199.67 billion in 2017, a growth rate of 22%. The available two-way seats serving Japanese airports increased by 29% from 199.05 million in 2008 to 257.65 million in 2017.

International seats up by 46% since 2008

The available capacity on international services increased from 76.94 million two-way seats in 2008 to 112.58 million in 2017, a growth rate of 46%. During this period, the only year-on-year reduction in international capacity occurred in 2009, when seat numbers dropped by 6.6% versus 2008 levels. Since then there have been eight consecutive annual increases in international seats. The largest single year-on-year increase took place in 2016, with capacity up 10% compared to the previous year. From 2009 to 2017 international capacity to and from Japan grew by 57%.

Japan international seats

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser – non-stop flights only.

The fastest growing international airport pair from Japan in 2017 was the link from Sapporo Chitose to Daegu in South Korea, although the significant increase in seats over 2016 levels was due to the fact that Air Busan only began serving the route in the December of the previous year. To gain an idea of the strongest growing established routes, anna.aero also looked at the international services that offered 100,000 seats or more in 2016. The fastest growing airport pair from this selection was Sapporo Chitose to Shanghai Pudong which saw an 80% increase in seats in 2017.

Steady domestic growth follows cuts

The seats available on domestic Japanese flights grew from 122.12 million in 2008 to 145.07 million in 2017, an increase of 19%. Domestic capacity experienced its fair share of ups and downs during this period, including three consecutive years of cuts from 2010 to 2012, which saw seat numbers drop by 9.0% from 2009 to 2012. The market returned to growth from 2013 to 2015, before further cuts in 2016 were followed by a moderate increase of 1.6% last year. The largest single annual increase in domestic capacity during the period 2008 to 2017 occurred in 2013, when seat numbers rose by 15% compared to the previous year. Although the domestic market has experienced lower percentage growth than international capacity in recent years, it still accounts for the majority of seats at Japanese airports. In 2008 domestic links represented 61% of all two-way seats serving Japan. By 2017 this had fallen to a market share of 55%.

Japan domestic seats

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser – non-stop flights only.

The fastest growing domestic airport pairs in Japan in 2017 were the links from Amakusa to Fukuoka and Kumamoto, which both witnessed a 185% boost in capacity last year, albeit from a small base. Amakusa Airlines began serving both routes in August in 2016. The Tokyo Haneda to Miyako link was the strongest growing domestic airport pair among those served by 100,000 seats or more in 2016. This sector witnessed a 46% increase in capacity last year.

Yakushima and Yamagata lead airport growth race

According to OAG data, 80 Japanese airports welcomed at least one scheduled service in 2017. Some of these did not handle regular flights, but 64 airports offered 100,000 departing seats or more. An analysis of year-on-year capacity increases for the more established airports (those with 100,000 seats or more in 2016) revealed that the fastest growing facilities in 2017 were Yakushima and Yamagata. These airports witnessed 24% and 23% increases in departing seats respectively, compared to 2016. Both facilities offered domestic flights only. Three other airports in the top 12 growth list also only offered domestic services: Sapporo Okadama, Nagoya Komaki and Kobe. The highest placed airport with international links was Saga, in fourth position, which saw an 18% increase in departing seats across its route map. The largest airport in the top 12, based on 2017 capacity, was Sendai in 11th position, which enjoyed an 8.1% increase in departing seats last year.

Japan airports

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser – non-stop flights only.  Airports with minimum of 100,000 departing seats in 2016.

Outside of the more established airports, a further 16 offered less than 100,000 departing seats in 2017. The strongest growth amongst these facilities took place at Amakusa where seat numbers were up 185% compared to 2016 levels. This airport only serves domestic links.

South Korea overtakes China as leading international market

There was at least one scheduled service to 51 different international country markets from Japan in 2017, with 29 of these supported by 100,000 one-way seats or more. The strongest growth amongst the more established markets (those with 100,000 seats or more in 2016) took place on services to South Korea, which was also the largest overall international market from Japan in 2017, overtaking China to claim top spot. Seat numbers on South Korean services increased by 29% last year, with 13 carriers offering flights  to seven combined destinations in the country in 2017. Flights to South Korea accounted for 20% of all departing international seats from Japan last year. Eight of the top 12 growth markets were in the Asia Pacific region. The fastest growing international market outside of Asia Pacific was Russia in seventh position.

Japan country markets

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser – non-stop flights only. Includes countries served by minimum  of 100,000 seats in 2016.

A further 22 international markets were served by less than 100,000 one-way seats from Japan in 2017. The fastest growing destination amongst this group was Spain, with seat numbers on direct links to the European nation increasing by 392% compared to 2016 levels. The extent of this increase was due to Iberia operating its link from Madrid to Tokyo Narita year round in 2017, after only introducing the route in October 2016.

Domestic routes still represent the majority of departing seats from Japanese airports, accounting for 55% of total two-way capacity in 2017. Fuji Dream Airlines added a new domestic connection on 20 April when it inaugurated a daily link between Sendai and Izumo.


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