When I visited Okinawa, I had my first experience on a Japanese LCC (Low Cost Carrier). These budget airlines are what you expect of them and while they may be LCCs, they do their best to infuse a lot of Japanese character and “omotenashi” (hospitality). You can’t really expect much from an LCC and while I don’t think they are great, they do what they are supposed to do and do it well enough that I had no real complaints about the service.
Jetstar Japan for all intents and purposes is a separate entity to Jetstar in Australia. I have yet to fly on Jetstar in Australia or any other country but Jetstar Japan is a joint venture of Japan Airlines and Qantas, the parent company of Jetstar in Australia. Aside from the benefits of having a unified system, an existing brand, and rules that have been worked out by Jetstar in Australia, Jetstar Japan has a lot of little things that differ and may not be noticeable for many people.
The main difference is in how the crew of Jetstar Japan act. They are very Japanese and while they may not be as apologetic about things, they are definitely high quality and they know how to do things with a smile. I was happy that the basic Japanese hospitality was still with Jetstar Japan. They come around on the flight and sell various little snacks and drinks. If you are lucky, you can bring your own drinks on board and they don’t notice. You have to be sneaky as they won’t care if you bring one of the brands that they sell and if it is of the same size. You can see their menu online to see what can and can’t be sneaked on. I would not bring alcohol as they are stricter with that and actually make an announcement on it. Hot drinks are also not allowed to be brought on board, so be sure to finish that Starbucks coffee before you board. I did see them “confiscate” a bottle of water from one passenger but they were pretty polite about it and the passenger didn’t care about it either.
Flying on an LCC means you have to be prepared for cramp planes. Jetstar Japan has a fleet of Airbus A320s in a single cabin configuration. It is all economy with no premium economy seats. The seats are small and you should expect that when flying on an LCC. Compared to my flight on Air Asia X, the seats did feel a bit smaller and they were definitely less comfortable. The Jetstar seats were quite soft and I felt that back support was pretty weak overall. I had a bit of a back ache after a simple 3 hour flight. I don’t think I would want to use Jetstar if I am flying any farther than Okinawa as the seats are just not comfortable enough.
Jetstar has its main base in Narita. It is always a pain to go to Narita Airport, even though I live in Kinshicho where it is pretty easy to get to Narita. The LCC terminal, Terminal 3, at Narita Airport is almost 1 km away from Terminal 2 and you have to walk there. There is a shuttle bus but it runs roughly every 10 minutes. It is just as fast to walk there, but if you are older and can’t walk as well you will be better off using the shuttle bus. The check-in area for Jetstar is pretty big compared to the other LCCs at Terminal 3 but be aware that it may be a bit busy at times, especially the peak times.
I was lucky to use the web check-in and it made my trip pretty easy. You can check-in up to 48 hours in advance and they send a QR code directly to your e-mail. Jetstar Japan links with the main Jetstar website so all of the information they have is also available in English and I believe they have other languages available as well. It made booking tickets very easy. For my boarding pass, I installed the ticket app to make things easier and it replaced my standby screen with my boarding pass so I was able to get through security and onto the plane with ease. I just showed my pass to the security staff and they confirmed the information and let me through. At boarding, they use iPhones or iPod touches with a special reader to scan the QR code and I was given a quick printout of my information for boarding.
As with all LCCs, you usually have to use the special LCC terminal. In Narita, Jetstar uses Terminal 3, the LCC terminal. At smaller airports Jetstar shares the main terminal areas with JAL, and often they use JAL ground crews to help. When I arrived and departed from Naha Airport, I was lucky to avoid the LCC terminal which is very inconvenient. It will depend on the airport you are using, so be sure to check on things before you go to the airport.
Jetstar Japan is a very good LCC airline. Compared to JAL and ANA they are nowhere near as good but you are paying for the luxury if you are using JAL or ANA. I didn’t want to pay so much for a flight to Okinawa and thankfully the prices are coming down on JAL and ANA to better compete with LCCs. My flight to Naha was a little over 20,000 JPY and at the time of booking almost all flights on JAL and ANA were over 40,000 JPY for a round trip. It was an obvious choice to save 20,000 JPY and fly on Jetstar. Both Peach and Vanilla Air also have the same flights and their prices are comparable. I cannot comment on their service but I will definitely consider Jetstar again in the future for any flights that I have, although JAL and ANA are my priorities.