With the merger with Vanilla Air complete, Japanese LCC Peach Aviation is now looking to hire more pilots as it works to expand its capacity and network.

The carrier’s 29 Airbus A320 aircraft are currently flying around 10 hours daily, compared to the targeted 12 hours, and the priority after the Vanilla Air integration is to speed up expansion and pilot recruitment, CEO Shinichi Inoue told ATW at Peach’s headquarters in Osaka.

The airline now hires pilots from 26 countries, and Inoue said Japanese regulators are becoming more relaxed with the rules for hiring foreign pilots.

Unit costs can be reduced by increasing aircraft utilization and adding capacity and routes, CFO Junya Okamura said, instead of by cutting costs and overhead.

Peach—a subsidiary of All Nippon Airways, as was Vanilla Air—opted to take 13 of Vanilla’s 15 A320s to ensure the aircraft are optimally utilized. The seven-year old airline has 10 A320neos and four A321LRs on order, with deliveries set to begin in 2021. Peach plans to use the A321LRs on six-to-seven-hour routes, such as connecting Tokyo and Osaka to Southeast Asia. Inoue said inner China is also a market the carrier is exploring with the long-range narrowbody.

The carrier’s South Korean routes were affected by trade issues and a weak Korean currency, which caused a significant drop in the inbound market, Okamura said. The Korean market accounts for a quarter of Peach’s international revenue, and poor demand forced the airline to suspend three services between the two countries. Inbound traffic from Hong Kong remained strong, although the airline is starting to see a decline after six months of anti-government demonstrations in the region.  

Chen Chuanren, chuanren@purplelightvisuals.com