Dubbed Japan’s “first true Low-Cost Carrier”, chances are, unless you’ve been to Japan, you’ve never heard of the carrier Peach.
The airline started flights in 2012 with All Nippon Airways (ANA) the largest shareholder. ANA’s other budget carrier, Vanilla Air, which was a rebrand for what once was AirAsia Japan in 2013, has recently started a merger with the airline under the Peach Aviation banner. This will see some rapid growth for the airline, as the number of aircraft and destinations will almost double to 50. So chances are you’ll start to hear a lot more about the airline, which currently only flies within Japan and to a couple of international destinations such as Taipei, Seoul and Hong Kong.
Back in August, I flew with the airline for the first time, travelling to Hong Kong from the airline’s hub in Osaka, at the Kansai International Airport (KIX). So how does the airline compare to other Low-Cost airlines around the world?
Route: Osaka (KIX) to Hong Kong (HKG) – MM063
Seat: 18C (3-3 Aisle)
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Flight Time: Three and a Half Hours
On Time? We left 10 minutes late, but arrived 10 minutes early
Getting to KIX Airport from Osaka
There are a few different options for getting to KIX from Osaka. You can drive or take a taxi – though the latter is incredibly expensive and not recommended. There’s a 24 hour “Limo Bus” service which is a comfortable and reliable option – though not if you’re in a rush. The best way to get there, so long as you’re within its operating hours (you can find them HERE), is by train.
There are a number of stations from where you can catch the train. I did so from Tennōji Station, from where it costs ¥1060 for the slower connection service, or ¥2430 for the express. If you have the cash, as you can only pay by cash, there’s no reason not to spend the extra money, saving yourself 20 minutes or so by jumping on the express service. It takes about half an hour from Tennōji Station. It’s a bit confusing on the standard machines as to how to buy a ticket for the express, but grab the ¥1060 ticket, and then the ticket officer on board will ensure you pay the difference on board. I got pretty worried about fare evasion in regards to this one, so it’s good to know for future that this is an option.
The train drops you at T1, and then there’s a free bus to take you to T2, which takes about 5 minutes. T2 is a domestic/international terminal spread over two buildings, on which Peach seem to have just about exclusive use of. This is their originating hub after all!
Check-In and Baggage
Like most budget carriers, you are going to be paying extra for baggage and things like seat selection before you buy. And do make sure you’ve sorted all that before you arrive at the airport. Once you arrive, there’s easy check-in machines in all languages. I checked in in the domestic terminal by accident, but the machines still worked. This did make my life easier when I got to the international termal, however, as the machines there seemed to be having some issues – and the lines were pretty ridiculous given we were pretty much the only international flight about to depart.
There was a long, slow moving queue for bag drop, caused in part by the fact there were families travelling with a lot of luggage, and in part because there was no separate queue for people who couldn’t get their tickets from the machine. So the line for bag drops was, esentially, the line for everyone. They definitely need to do something there. If KIX is their hub, I’d hate to see how they handle it at other airports. It could have been a bad day though – it’s far to say Japanese products are usually known for their efficiency if nothing else. But as you have to remember in a frustrating scenario like this, an airline isn’t going to leave without the majority of its passengers, and we were all in the same boat.
Despite bag drop due to close 50 minutes before departure, I ended up dropping my bag 30 minutes before departure, and there were still a lot of people after me, so they continued taking bags for as long as they could. Getting through security was a much easier endeavour and took only 10 minutes, and I ended up at the gate just as they started boarding (interestingly they use the method where you board window seats first, which seems to works well from an effiency point of view).
The Hong Kong service boards at the approprately numbered gate 88, and it wasn’t long before I was called to board. Remarkably, the bags were all loaded up and we departed only ten minutes late. Oh and one piece of advise: there’s one more vending machine as you start the final walk towards the gate. I didn’t see one in the duty free area so I recommend waiting for the vending machine rather than buying a drink from the store if you want something for the flight; it’s cheaper and the selections are better.
Seats and Comfort
I made sure to pre-pay for an aisle seat so I didn’t end up in the middle, which I highly recommend on budget carriers, especially around Asia. Seats aren’t very tall – sitting upright my neck was against the top of the seat, which was a first for me. Seat width was fine, and thankfully given the lack of leg room (some of the least amount I’ve ever experienced), there wasn’t too much seat recline. They’re older leather seats, a bit run down but comfortable enough, with no movable headrest. But I could lean my head on the edge of the seat, and sort of get a comfortable position out of it.
In Flight Food and Drink
There’s nothing included in the flight, but there’s plenty of options for purchase. There were two main meal options: a pork katsu with rice for ¥900, or a bento box with sushi and fried chicken for ¥1300. I had the former and it was actually quite good. Most non-alcoholic drinks were ¥150 on top of the meal, or ¥200 by themselves (water is a bit cheaper, premium options more expensive). Keeping to brand, there are Peach flavoured options throughout, including a sparkling “Peach Rose” wine. There’s even takoyaki and okonomiyaki. Soup and noodle options start from ¥300 yen.
It was a 15-20 minute wait for the hot food, which they tell you after you pay of course, and quite surprisingly they kept refilling my cup and teabag with hot water. So I had hot tea for almost the whole flight. While there was a lot of frustration on ground, the service in air couldn’t have been more polite or better. I’ve been stuck on better planes with a lot worse service. The food was really tasty, if only a small portion – I had the port katsu with bamboo fried rice and a green tea. Cards or Yen were accepted without issue.
They made a lot of regular announcements in Japanese or English, which might have been frustrating if you were trying to sleep, but was actually rather helpful. For instance, the Pilot gave us 10 mins notice on turbulence so we could use the bathrooms in time. And incredibly, we not only departed 10 minutes late given the fact they were still loading bags until some 30 minutes after they were supposed to, but we ended up landing slightly early too.
On Arrival at Hong Kong International
Hong Kong’s International Airport is filled with excellent dining and shopping options, and they also offer a quick train service to the city. If you’ve got a transit time of more than 5 hours, I recommend popping into city. You can get a same day return ticket from the HK airport to HK station for just $115HKD, and you can pay by credit card at the station (most other locations require cash payment). It’s a 24 minute trip one way. And once you get to Hong Kong Station, if you had to pick up your bag, you can actually check it back in at the station, and they’ll take it to the plane for you. It’s a pretty remarkable service.
As far as in flight experiences go, the airline was on par with any low budget experience I’ve ever had, with extra points for some great food options and excellent in flight service. But the check-in process at the airline’s own hub left a lot to be desired, and there’s not much in the way of comfort. Still, it was a pretty pleasant flight for a reasonably brief three hour voyage between countries. Just load up some Netflix and away you go…
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
For bookings and to learn more about the airline, head to Peach’s official website.
The writer flew at his own expense. Photo by the author.