Jetstar Japan (GK, Tokyo Narita) will start dedicated freighter operations in early 2024 following the signing of a partnership agreement between JAL Group and Japanese logistics specialist Yamato Group last week.

Under the agreement, the LCC will operate three A321-200(P2F)s out of Tokyo Haneda and Tokyo Narita to Sapporo ChitoseKitakyushu, and Okinawa Naha starting in April 2024.

According to a joint statement, Yamato's push into the air cargo niche comes amid growing difficulties in ensuring a reliable overland distribution network given the heavy rains, snow, and earthquakes that have occurred throughout Japan as well as bellyhold capacity constraints in light of reduced passenger flights. As such, the introduction of air cargo services will help circumvent these issues, while at the same time allowing JAL Group to offset the impact of Covid-19 on its domestic network revenue inflows.

"We see this freighter operation as an opportunity to realise further growth in the cargo business by utilising the assets and knowhow of both companies and contributing to the solution of social issues such as the problems of truck transportation," the statement said.

Yamato Transport, which also uses road, rail, and shipping services, will be responsible for sourcing the aircraft while Jetstar, the only A320 Family operator in the JAL - Japan Airlines (JL, Tokyo Haneda) stable of carriers, will oversee their operation. According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, the budget airline currently employs nineteen A320-200s with two A321-200NXs awaiting service entry.

With this development, JAL Group is returning to the freighter market having exited it in 2010 when it phased out its then remaining fleet of three B767 and ten B747 freighters, the ch-aviation fleets history module shows. At present, no Japanese airlines operate any narrowbody freighters; ANA - All Nippon Airways (NH, Tokyo Haneda) deploys nine B767-300Fs and two B777-Fs, while NCA - Nippon Cargo Airlines (KZ, Tokyo Narita) uses eight B747-8(F)s (alongside two B747-400(F)s wet-leased from Atlas Air (5Y, New York JFK)).