New budget airline coming to Taiwan

TAIPEI - Eyeing the opportunities created by a Taiwan-Japan open skies agreement, Japanese low-cost carrier Vanilla Air became the 13th budget airline serving Taiwan when it recently launched flights between Taiwan and Japan.

Previously known as AirAsia Japan when it was jointly owned by All Nippon Airways (ANA) and AirAsia, Vanilla Air was recapitalized in June 2013 and is now a wholly owned subsidiary of ANA.

The airline will initially operate a daily round-trip flight between Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and Narita Airport in Tokyo, but expects to increase services to Taiwan starting in January, according to a plan submitted to Taiwan's aviation regulator and obtained by the Central News Agency.

The carrier will rejoin a crowded budget airline market in Taiwan that has grown to 12 participants since Singapore-based Jetstar Asia launched a Taipei route in 2004.

Low-cost airline operators serving Taiwan - all foreign-based - cover destinations throughout Asia, including Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Manila, Busan and Shanghai. But it will be only the second budget airline flying the Taipei-Tokyo route, which is also served by seven mainline carriers.

Taiwanese carrier TransAsia Airways announced last week that it was also setting up a low-cost carrier subsidiary, which is expected to start operations next year. Taiwan's largest carrier China Airline (CAL, 中華航空) also announced its foray into the budget-carrier market.