Skymark May Order 15 A380s in International Expansion

Skymark Airlines Inc., Japan’s biggest low-cost carrier, said it may order as many as 15 Airbus SAS A380 superjumbos as it adds international flights.

The planes, which would be delivered from 2014, would initially fly to cities including London, Frankfurt and New York, President Shinichi Nishikubo told reporters in Tokyo today. The carrier plans to fit the superjumbos with 394 seats, divided between business and premium economy.

Skymark plunged 16 percent in Tokyo trading earlier this week, the day after announcing plans to add A380s and challenge All Nippon Airways Co. and Japan Airlines Corp. on overseas routes. The carrier currently only flies scheduled domestic services using a fleet of 15 all-economy Boeing Co. 737 planes.

“We believe price is the number one way to appeal to customers,” said Nishikubo. “We like markets with high fares the best.”

The carrier may offer roundtrip business class tickets between Tokyo and London from 347,000 yen ($4,230), Nishikubo said. All Nippon Airways sells return business class fares for the same route in February from 872,000 yen, according to its website.

Fewer Seats

Skymark, based in Tokyo, is putting fewer seats on its A380s than other airlines as it offers more business class seats. Singapore Airlines Ltd., the first A380 customer, flies its 11 planes with a 471-seat combination and Deutsche Lufthansa AG has 526 seats.

Qantas Airways Ltd., which also flies A380s, grounded its fleet of six of the planes after a blowout in one of the engines occurred on a flight earlier this month from Singapore to Sydney. None of the 466 people on board the plane were injured as the aircraft returned to Singapore with a charred engine and a wing damaged by shrapnel hurled from the turbine.

Skymark has signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus covering the purchase of four A380s, the planemaker said in a statement today. Skymark intends to buy two of the aircraft itself and to lease the other two, Nishikubo said.

The order for the first four planes is worth 1.39 billion euros ($1.9 billion), according to Airbus’s list prices. The carrier plans to add 1.5 of the planes a year on average, Nishikubo said.

Skymark intends for the A380s to be profitable in the first year of operation, he said. Future destinations will include Los Angeles, Honolulu, Vancouver, Melbourne, Bangkok, Singapore and Rome, he said.

Skymark, which is listed on the start-up Mothers section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, fell 1 percent to 760 yen at the close of trading today. The airline announced its A380 fleet plans after the market closed.

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