As soon as I got off the train at Kansai International Airport, colorful signs signaled the way to the Peach. I soon reached the second floor of the Aeroplaza, where purple-clad staff members smiled as they guided passengers to the similarly-colored self-check-in kiosks.
Peach Aviation is Japan’s newest airline, a subsidiary of All Nippon Airways that covers popular domestic routes and a growing number of international destinations for surprisingly low fares.
Based in Osaka, Peach flies between Kansai International Airport and New Chitose airport near Sapporo, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, and Kagoshima (the airline has plans to add Okinawa). As of this writing, Peach will take you to Seoul, South Korea as well, with services to Hong Kong and Taipei set to begin later in 2012.
For travelers who place a high priority on price — and surely the vast majority do — Peach is a welcome development. I booked my round trip between Osaka and Hokkaido for about 20,000 yen just one week in advance and departing on a national holiday. Attempting to do the same via Peach’s parent company ANA could cost you 40,000 yen (or more) for just one way.
Of course, you may be thinking that you get what you pay for. Sure, as a low cost carrier Peach does have its drawbacks. If you book the lowest fare, theres’s a good chance you’ll have to take an early morning or late evening departure, and checking bags will cost extra (a higher grade fare means no baggage fees and free changes to your flight plan online). In flight, food and beverages will cost you more as well. And at Kansai airport, be prepared for a extra layer of travel, as a 10-minute bus ride between the plane and the terminal is required.
But overall, I was satisfied with my Peach experience. The plane itself was just like any other, and while the seats are tight, they shouldn’t be trouble unless you’re especially large. On board, the staff are friendly, and just like their counterparts at the check-in kiosks, big smiles are the norm. Menus, safety information and on-board announcements all come in English, though admittedly some of the cabin attendants could use a brush-up in English pronunciation.
Accents aside, Peach clearly welcomes foreign customers, as a look at their well-designed English website will confirm (www.flypeach.com) . Online, you can learn about the company, browse flights and schedules, confirm airport layouts, and of course book flights. Payment can be made via credit card or at a convenience store kiosk.
Whether you’re looking to get around Japan or explore nearby Asian countries on a budget, Peach may be your best bet. And with more low cost carriers planning to enter the Japan market, expect even peachier fares down the road.