Vanilla Air is a new LCC (Low Cost Carrier) based at Narita Airport that is expanding services both domestically and internationally to leisure resorts. Newly opened in December 2013, it now has 4 regular routes, flying domestically to Naha and Sapporo and internationally to Taipei and Seoul.
This time, we will head off to Okinawa to catch a glimpse of “Japan’s First Spring”! As an aviation journalist, I will guide you through the flight to Naha and give my recommendations for flying Vanilla Air.
Climb aboard the resort-styled aircraft with the vanilla flower logo!
The aircraft for our flight to Naha is the A320 Airbus, a popular craft for LCC. The tail-fin logo design is a vanilla flower in the airline’s colors of yellow and blue. The opulent yellow symbolizes the sun and enjoyment, while the relaxing blue represents the freedom of the skies and the oceans. When you board an airline that you know is new, there’s always a little bit of excitement. That excitement is heightened by the fact that fellow tourists far outnumber business passengers.
LCC aircraft use the vacant tarmac spots at Terminal 2 in Narita Airport, so a bus will transport you from the boarding gate. Check-in for boarding begins 90 minutes before and ends 30 minutes prior to the scheduled flight departure time. Passengers must assemble promptly at the boarding gate 20 minutes prior to departure. Be sure not to be late.
Vanilla Air’s check-in counter for domestic flights is located in Terminal 2 at Narita Airport on the 1st floor. Please check the details of the location on the website in advance. The boarding procedure is quite easy. If you have completed ’web check-in’ (with no luggage to check), please bring your printed out boarding pass and head to the security check area.
Travel in comfort and style in a brand new aircraft!
Vanilla Air offers 3 types of airfares. Detailed fare information is available on the website and I would encourage you to check it yourself, but I’ll give a brief overview here.
Fare 1: Inclusive (Komi Komi Vanilla) Checked baggage up to 20kg is free, and seat selection is also free. Pre-flight cancellation is possible (charge applies). If your plans might change, I would recommend this fare.
Fare 2: Simple (Simple Vanilla) Vanilla Air’s standard plan, includes up to 20kg of checked baggage for free.
Fare 3: Campaign (Waku Waku Vanilla) Intermittent fare deals with special prices. However, they do not offer seat selection and luggage is charged. Neither the flight nor the date can be altered or cancelled, so be sure to carefully read the conditions for these fares.
A selling point of Vanilla Air is the 20kg of luggage that can be checked in for free. You’re bound to fill your luggage with souvenirs and beach items from the South, so isn’t it nice that your luggage bill won’t increase as well? Note that in the above-mentioned Campaign fare, additional costs are involved, so be sure to read carefully the conditions of this type of fare. Large leisure items (non-standard-size) such as golf bags, surfboards, skis or snowboards carry an additional charge, but they can be checked in so don’t worry.
Inside all Vanilla Air aircraft are 180 seats in matching black leather. All three aircraft retained in March of 2013 are the same specification, and all are brand new (note that some of their future aircraft purchases will have 166 seats).
The first row seats and seats in the center of the aircraft near the emergency exits are designated “Relax Seats”, where you can stretch your legs out in comfort. You can select these seats free of charge with the Inclusive fare. For customers using either the Simple or Campaign fares, the Relax Seats can be selected for an additional fee of 1,200 JPY. The flight to Naha is a little long, so reserving these seats might be a good idea. (** The photo shows the first row Relax Seat)
Take your seat quickly when boarding, and get ready for take-off!
The holiday mood is boosted by the friendly staff selling items on the plane!
There is an air of excitement in the cabin as everyone is anticipating a fun time in Okinawa. People on their way to the tropics have their own unique and cheerful vibe. The flight time from Narita to Naha is scheduled at 3 hours and 20 minutes, a little long for a domestic flight, but you can enjoy the atmosphere in the plane, the scenery from the window, the on-board refreshments, and a little time to yourself.
When the plane has leveled off at cruising altitude, the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off and on-board services begin. As it’s an LCC, all services carry a charge. You can find a list of all available items in the pamphlet in the seat pocket in front of you. Food, drinks, and various other items can be purchased from staff members (flight attendants). Magazines and newspapers are not provided on the flight, so if you would like to read these in-flight, please purchase them yourself prior to departure. I recommend checking the in-flight menu on their website in advance.
Try the resort-styled in-flight menu to get in the holiday mood!
“Flight Kitchen” meals are available for purchase on board Vanilla Air. As this LCC is expanding its resort routes, they have created an in-flight menu that’s certainly suitable for a resort.
I chose 3 menu items this time. (photo)
First off is a main course, “Ocean’s Bounty Paella-Style Rice” (700 JPY). A heavily resort-influenced dish with a seafood, bell pepper, and tomato combination on a bed of yellow saffron rice. It’s warmed up in the plane’s galley so it takes some time to serve, but it’s well worth the wait.
For desert, the most popular item is “Milk Dama (Balloon Pudding)”, which uses Narita Dream Dairy Farm’s special milk (350 JPY). Pop the balloon to enjoy this unique pudding with a gelatinous texture and the flavor of fresh farm milk. It will definitely be something you’ll want to tell about.
To complete the meal, a nice warm Vanilla Macadamia flavor “Lion Drip Coffee”. The scent of its vanilla was truly intoxicating. Of course, as I was flying on Vanilla Air I had to try it. They also offer regular coffee, onion soup, and black tea as well (all hot beverages are 200 JPY, alcoholic drinks are all 350 JPY)
They also have “Creamy Custard Buns”, a Vanilla Air special, filled with vanilla-scented custard (200 JPY each). The bite-sized “Family Style Pancakes” (500 JPY) with maple syrup and chocolate are also apparently very popular.
Have a look at the menu after you’re seated and see what to order! You can also bring your own food and drink on board the aircraft. Purchasing food before boarding and just getting a desert or drinks on the plane is also no problem (please note that alcohol is not permitted to be brought onto the aircraft). There is a specialized Vanilla Air store near the boarding gate called “Vstore”. One is also located in the LCC terminal at Naha Airport.
Vanilla Air’s in-flight information magazine with special coupons!
Usually, the first thing you do after boarding is take out the in-flight magazine from the pocket in front of you. Inside Vanilla Air’s in-flight magazine, you’ll find a pamphlet full of special coupons you can keep and use.
The “Tabi Coupon” pamphlet provides information on your destination as well as coupons that can be used by Vanilla Air customers at various tourist destinations. It includes local transport, shopping, and restaurant information, as well as discount coupons to save you money. (** You must present your Vanilla Air boarding pass to when using the coupons) In the photo, the “Tabi Coupon” is on the right and on the left is the in-flight magazine and menu.
Chatting and enjoying the food, you’ll be in Okinawa before you know it. The plane arrives at Naha Airport’s special Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). After getting off the plane, you can soak up the strong tropical sunshine while walking into the LCCT. A bus from the LCCT will transport you to the main domestic terminal in coordination with arrivals. From there, your journey begins!
"Simple and Easy to Understand" is the selling point of this new LCC
Comparatively, the option charges and fare structure of Vanilla Air are much easier to understand than other similar LCC’s. Booking tickets is especially easy through their user-friendly website. You can also purchase tickets by calling their reservation center. As they also offer package tours, Vanilla Air’s focus is also on families, seniors, and young people, making it an easy-to-use airline.
Additionally, their second domestic route from Tokyo (Narita Airport) to Sapporo (New Chitose Airport) (3 roundtrip flights per day) has been operating since January 29th. There will be 4 roundtrip flights per day from March 30th through April 25th, and 5-6 daily roundtrip flights are planned for the summer, making travel to and from Sapporo all the more convenient.
With friendly service even for first time LCC travelers and a leisurely resort atmosphere at an affordable price, how about getting a “Ticket to the Sky” with Vanilla Air?
(This article is written in conjunction with Vanilla Air Co. Ltd.)