Just Peachy – Low Cost Airlines in Japan

Japan is often noted as being an expensive place to vacation. Like most generalizations this is a bit short sided and not quite accurate. If you are on a strict schedule and you are particular about accommodations then yes, Japan will set you back a pretty penny. If you don’t mind a public bath, odd travel hours and spending a night or two in a comic book shop, you can get around Japan at a pretty low cost. One of the most cost prohibitive things in any travel situation is getting from A to B cheaply once you have arrived within the countries’ borders. As I’ve discussed earlier regarding Japan, Shinkansen is very expensive and highway busses are a little time consuming.

On my summer vacation I settled on Peach Airlines to fly from Sendai to Osaka and then Osaka to Seoul. Following the same path in reverse on my return trip.Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 11.38.11 AM

I didn’t choose Peach because it got the best reviews (it doesn’t have many being relatively new), I chose it almost solely on price and availability. Sendai’s airport is small and there are not a lot of airlines that operate out of there to begin with. Price wise, it was about two thirds the cost of high speed train for round trip fare.

Well, how does Peach compare?

The Business End

I think the best way to think about Peach would be to place it side by side with a similar Euro and American counterpart. The closest thing to a low cost national airline in the states is probably Southwest. In Europe I will use EasyJet.

screen-shot-2013-11-18-at-10-30-29-amClick to zoom

I went through of process of trying to book a relatively equidistant flight on each Airline and then looked at my breakdown of charges before check out. For Southwest I used Sacramento to LAX, for Peach I used Sendai to Osaka, for EasyJet I used London to Berlin. For Southwest (or any US flight) the total taxes will change because the Excise Tax is 7.5% of your fare price. I included this as $20 tax fee but it can be less or more depending on the fare price. Timing of the flight would also play a major role in costs that are based on a percent of the fare total. I used a one week round trip in early December as an estimate.

Overall I would say Peach compares very well to the other LCC’s on the list. Within Japan, Peach’s biggest issue is that most of the flights require a trip through Osaka. If you are in Sendai and want to go to Sapporo or Even Tokyo a trip through Osaka is required.

I was a little worried they would nickel and dime me out of my low fare though hidden charges and other nonsense but as you can see from the above chart Peach is relatively tame compared to their US and European counterparts.
It is still really annoying to pay a fee to pay for your ticket. The “convenience fee” is either a charge for using your credit card or a charge for paying in cash at a convenience store in Japan. I like to imagine trying to charge a convenience fee in a barter economy.

George: “Hello, I’d like to trade you some lettuce and onions for these eggs.”
Adam: “Sounds great, I think 1 dozen eggs for 3 heads of lettuce and 3 onions is fair.”
George: “Ok, here is 3 heads of lettuce and 3 onions, thanks for the eggs.”
Adam: “Not just yet, there is a convenience fee of 1 potato.”
George: “Convenience what for what?”
Adam: “I am accepting a payment from you, isn’t that convenient for you?… Well it’s not convenient for me. So I have to charge you for the time it took me to finish our transaction. That costs 1 potato.”
George:“But I brought everything to you, and I am taking everything away, you did nothing but stand here and agree.”
Adam: “Conveniently I might add.”
George: “So I have to pay you, to pay you.”
Adam: “That sounds vulgar, it’s a convenience fee.”

Now imagine an online transaction with no human interaction at all. Ugh. A convenience fee should be a charge for reading my mind and then sending me a ticket via email without me having to stop binge watching Battlestar Galactica on Netflix. That would be worth a convenience fee.
Grade: B

The Flight

My biggest issue with EasyJet was that every flight was a non stop sales pitch. Since nothing is complimentary on an EasyJet flight they try to get you to buy 4€ cans of Coke or snacks. Peach did offer a menu of overpriced snacks but for the most part left me alone when it came to the sales pitch. Just one at the beginning of the flight informing the cabin that there were things for sale (in English and Japanese).peach_airlines_hostess
Our flights were during the summer and the Peach crew kept the plane extra frosty which was nice. The temperatures outside were just stupid hot. They even spray a cool mist in the cabin during boarding and taxi. Also the smooth jams that Peach plays during boarding were quite groovy.

Peach is a very new airline and just about everything on the plane was brand new and in great shape. The complimentary beverages were adequate but not on the level of Lufthansa which offers free wine and beer. The in flight staff on all four Peach flights was extremely courteous. In flight entertainment was a little lacking but the flight distances are relatively short and I am pretty well equipped with my own entertainment.
Grade: A+

The Check in Counter, Boarding Gates, Baggage Claim and Airport

For one reason or another I experience severe anxiety about the boarding process. If I am not one of the first 5 people on the plane (not counting those who require assistance down the jet way, families with children under 5 years old, and active duty heroes in our military) I get unreasonably annoyed. The ideal boarding process is me first, then everyone else. When I had frequent flyer status in the US I felt like such an awesome person. I would purposely lord my status over the peons in the REGULAR security line by walking extra slow between the empty stanchions in the priority line.

Southwest Airlines has nearly given me an aneurism due to their cattle call boarding procedure. Peach has boarding zones on their boarding cards but doesn’t seem to know that they exist. During all the Peach boarding processes I went through, they made every attempt to line up the passengers in some sort of order via the overhead announcement system, and invariably everyone boarding the plane ignored them. This is bad and good. It’s bad because I prefer order and knowing that I will be first if my boarding card reads, “zone 1” or whatever. However, the gate chaos can be great if you lack scruples and regardless of your boarding card, force your way to the front of the line. Sometimes I lack scruples.

Sendai Airport Terminal

Sendai Airport Terminal

Baggage was very prompt and nothing in the bag was severely damaged in flight. The highest mark any airline can receive for baggage handling is that my suitcase and back pack showed up where they were supposed to and were in one piece. At Osaka-Kansai the Peach baggage check was a little disorganized first thing in morning with about eight flights leaving between 7:05AM and 7:20AM. Maybe they might want to space those flights out a little bit to give the poor girl at the counter a break.

Lastly and probably not the fault of the airline itself, but the boarding gate areas in Terminal 2 at Osaka Kansai and Sendai airport were severely lacking in amenities. Not as bad as Santorini or Prague but pretty bad.
Grade: B

Overall, I could definitely recommend Peach to someone looking to save a dime with airfare. However for the time it takes to get to an airport and get on the plane the value may not be there. Shinkansen for short journeys is on average only a little bit more than the plane flight without all the hassle of the airport. If you are on a really tight budget, highway bus is the way to go because LCC’s are still expensive and air travel has many draw backs and fees that eat into any savings you might have got on the fare itself. See the chart below for cost comparison. Getting from your point of arrival to your final destination costs a lot if you are flying in to an airport that is well outside the city limits. It costs roughly $20 to $25 to get from Narita or Kansai to a central station in Tokyo or Osaka respectively.

screen-shot-2013-11-18-at-1-38-21-pmClick to zoom

Below is a chart of comparing and contrasting the various LCC’s in Japan. I have attached an Excel file with working hyperlinks to items referenced. Since I have only had personal experience with Peach I can’t rightly say anything either way about the rest of the LCC’s in Japan. Let me know in the comments if you have any experiences you’d like to share.

LCC Airlines Japan Excel with hyperlinks

screen-shot-2013-11-18-at-11-32-41-amClick to zoom

The fare prices on this chart are not as accurate as I would like them to be. In order to get an accurate fare price a full booking must be completed. I went by the lowest prices I could find on comparable flights. I tried to stick to domestic flights in Japan on similar routes and using major hubs like Tokyo and Osaka. Its still not perfect, Air Asia for instance only flies from Japan and not domestically (as far as I can tell from trying to book flights). Peach and Jet Star offer great calendars where rate comparison is very easy but that still doesn’t guarantee a flight at the price listed above.

In no way am I receiving any compensation for this article from any company listed or otherwise.

*Convenience and Credit Card Fees can be avoided if you pay using a different method. In the case of Peach, paying by credit card is still cheaper than the fee associated with other methods of payment. For EasyJet this is a 2% addition to your your total.
**Seat Selection fee can be avoided if you don’t care where you sit.
***For EasyJet the admin fee is included in the fare but it’s still a fee. Since I am not giving totals on specific flights which would change with destination I have just included it separately. If you book a flight with EasyJet this fee is rolled into your fare to start with and isn’t shown separately.

3 comments on “Just Peachy – Low Cost Airlines in Japan

  1. […] trip on Shinkansen for two people from Sendai to Tokyo is roughly $400 total.  We probably could have found last minute tickets on AirDo, Peach or JetStar but airports are huge hassle and we would still be looking at $300 total for a round trip tickets […]

  2. […] Shana and I have been going for bus travel to save money. It costs a fair bit to use shinkansen and flying low cost airlines isn’t a savings guarantee. From Sendai there several options for bus travel but Willer […]

  3. […] we embarked on a journey to Sapporo for their Snow Festival. We live in Sendai and there are only two airlines that have regular service to New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido. Nearly all flight plans will take you through Osaka or Tokyo a.k.a. “the wrong […]

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