Loving aviation and having grown up watching and playing Pokemon, I was sad to see ANA’s last Pokemon Jet retired in 2016. While ANA introduced its Star Wars-themed aircraft in the meantime, I never liked them quite as much as I did the Pokemon Jets.
As such, I was really excited to see Skymark paint one of its 737-800s in a Pikachu livery earlier this year to celebrate Pokemon’s 25th anniversary. I was even more excited when I learned that there would be another Pokemon Jet joining the Japanese skies – Air Do’s Rokon Jet. Once it became clear which flight would be the new livery’s first, I decided to book it.
Continue reading to learn more about the aircraft as well as the service offered onboard.
Air Do’s Rokon Jet: Vulpix-Themed Livery and Cabin
Air Do’s Rokon Jet is a result of a collaboration between Pokemon and Hokkaido that started in 2018. At that time, the Pokemon Alolan Vulpix and Vulpix were named the leader and deputy leader of the “Hokkaido Aficionado Expedition.” As part of the collaboration, the two Pokemon have been used on a variety of local product packages as well as on manhole covers. Luckily for aviation fans, they also got featured on a Boeing 767 of Air Do, an airline headquartered in Sapporo, Hokkaido.
The aircraft registered JA607A was previously with ANA and was repainted in repainted by MRO Japan in Okinawa; Air Do expects to operate the aircraft in this livery for about five years.
It features Alolan Vulpix on its starboard side and Vulpix on its port side. Both of the sides are based on Air Do’s standard corporate colors with the starboard side being light blue and the port side being yellow. With each side of the aircraft being a different color, the Rokon Jet looks quite interesting when looked at from the top or front.
Inside, the aircraft is equipped with 270 seats and is Air Do’s first aircraft to not be in an all-economy class configuration. Instead, there are 10 ANA Premium Class seats in the front of the aircraft followed by 260 economy class seats. The former is in a 2-1-2 layout while the latter is in a standard 2-3-2 layout.
Interestingly, Air Do doesn’t sell the Premium Class seats for an extra and instead assigns them at check-in and right before departure based on a number of criteria including frequent flyer status.
While there is nothing special about the seats themselves, the headrest covers are Pokemon-themed. Just like with the livery, the headrest covers on the left side of the aircraft (including the center section aisle seats) feature a Vulpix. The seats on the other side feature an Alolan Vulpix-themed cover. The center section middle seats feature headrest covers picturing both of the Pokemon.
Celebrating Rokon Jet’s Entry into Service
While the aircraft was ferried from Okinawa where it got its new livery to Tokyo Haneda, because of its connection to Hokkaido, its inaugural flight was scheduled to depart Sapporo bound for Tokyo on December 1, 2021. As such, the aircraft was ferried from Tokyo to Sapporo the day before.
On the day of the inaugural flight, I arrived at the airport a bit less than two hours before the flight’s scheduled departure time of 12:20PM. After getting my boarding pass at one of the check-in machines near Air Do’s desks, I dropped my bag off using one of ANA’s automated baggage check-in machines.
Next to Air Do’s check-in counters, there was a Rokon Jet-themed photo background banner and a couple of Vulpix cut-outs. There was also a model of the aircraft on one of the counters displayed together with a cool-looking handmade Bear Do Hokkaido Jet (another Air Do special livery) plush toy.
Once airside, I (and a couple of dozen other people) gathered in front of the windows around gate 7 where the flight was departing from to photograph the aircraft being towed from a remote parking spot to the gate. Simultaneously, preparations for an inaugural event were underway in front of the gate.
The event started at around 11:40AM with brief speeches from:
- Susumu Kusano, President, Air Do
- Kodama Toshihiro, Vice Governor, Hokkaido Prefecture
- Hideki Tomita, Managing Executive Officer, Hokkaido Airports Co.
- Taku Kawamoto, Executive Officer, The Pokemon Company
While Mr. Kusano explained that the company put efforts into not only painting the livery but also delivering a “Vulpix experience” onboard, Mr. Kawamoto expressed how happy he was to see the aircraft entering into service and his hope of doing more Vulpix-themed collaborations with Hokkaido.
Once the speeches were over, Vulpix and Alolan Vulpix made an appearance for a tape-cutting ceremony.
The pre-departure event ended with a brief photo session. First, the four executives were joined by a pair of flight attendants. Then, they were joined by the two Pokemon once again, and finally, the executives, the flight attendants, and the Pokemon all posed together.
With the event over, the Vulpix and Alolan Vulpix roamed around the gate area for a while before (barely) making it through the ticket gates into the hall leading to the jetbridge to send off passengers boarding the flight.
Boarding Air Do Flight 20 from Sapporo to Tokyo
Boarding started around 12:05PM, fifteen minutes before scheduled departure time. In addition to the two Pokemon, both the guests and flight attendants that participated in the photo shoot were inside the area behind the gate.The two flight attendants were holding banners showing both sides of the new livery and the guests were handing out gift bags to the passengers.
As such, the area leading into the jetway was quite busy with people stopping by to get their bags, to take photos, and so on.
The gift bag included a folder with Vulpix on one side and Alolan Vulpix on the other as well as a postcard and three stickers featuring the aircraft and the two Pokemon.
After taking a few photos, I got my gift bag and headed down the jetway. Not before being sent off by the two Pokemon and taking a photo of the Rokon Jet together with the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet which was parked at the adjacent gate, though.
Flying on Rokon Jet’s Inaugural Flight
Onboard the aircraft, passengers were welcomed by plush Vulpix and Alolan Vulpix sitting in the jumpseat. Not too long after settling in my seat, 5G, it was time for departure.
With 186 passengers onboard, the cabin crew closed the aircraft’s doors at 12:19PM. Push back started at 12:21PM, just one minute behind schedule. At that point, the crew made their welcome announcement mentioning that we were onboard a Pokemon Jet.
While for the aviation enthusiasts onboard it was quite obvious, for those that just happened to book the flight by chance, it was a good reminder of why things around them were a bit different than usual.
We took off from Chitose airport’s runway 19R at 12:33PM and the seatbelt signs were switched off a bit less than fifteen minutes later. At that point, several people got up to look around the cabin and get some photos of the cabin.
Seeing one of the window seat pairs empty, I also took the opportunity to grab a quick window shot.
Not long after that, the cabin crew put their brand new Vulpix-themed aprons on and started the onboard service. A variety of soft drinks was offered. I decided to have a cup of apple juice and scallop soup which was quite good. In fact, the soup made a debut on the day of my flight and will only be offered until the end of February 2022.
As you can probably guess by now, the drinks were served in Vulpix-themed cups featuring regular Vulpix on one side and Alolan Vulpix on the other.
Between chatting with a friend I was traveling with, flipping through the in-flight magazine, and enjoying the Vulpix experience, the flight went by fairly quickly.
The in-flight magazine featured a really nice cover page with the new livery which I plan to frame as well as the onboard shopping catalog. Unlike on other, less eventful flights, some of the things in the catalog including the aprons worn by the crew and a commemorative Bear Do Hokkaido Jet keychain sold out in no time.
With the skies being a bit turbulent, the seatbelt signs were switched back on at 1:40PM. After descending and making our way across Tokyo Bay, we landed on Haneda airport’s runway 23 at 2:02PM. At 2:09PM, nine minutes behind schedule, we came to a full stop at gate 56.
I waited for a few minutes for most passengers to disembark (there were quite a few other passengers with a similar plan) to take a few cabin photos. Separately, I enjoyed seeing the cargo door decorated with a Poke Ball which, when opened, was nicely visible through the windows.
Hello, Rokon Jet! Goodbye, Bear Do!
After getting off the aircraft, I stopped by the terminal windows for a minute to get a photo of the aircraft. Luckily, around the same time, Bear Do Hokkaido Jet arrived from Sapporo too.
As the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet taxied behind the Rokon Jet, there was a nice opportunity to get both of the Air Do special liveries in a single photo. Considering that the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet is scheduled to retire later this month, the scene provided a nice ending to the very enjoyable Rokon Jet flight.
Now, all I have to do is catch a flight on Skymark’s Pokemon 737!