Having grown up watching and playing Pokemon, ANA’s now-gone Pokemon Jets are my all-time favorite special liveries. With Peace Jet’s retirement in 2016 and the introduction of ANA Star Wars Jets, however, it became clear the era of ANA Pokemon Jets has come to an end (for the time being). Still, I was hoping that they would return to Japan’s skies one day.
And, sure enough, they returned in 2021 as part of Pokemon’s 25th anniversary celebrations. First, Skymark Airlines introduced its Pikachu Jet. Not long after, Air Do followed with its Vulpix-themed Rokon Jet. Finally, earlier this year, Skymark announced that it would be introducing another Pikachu Jet to the world.
As soon as the inaugural date and flight were known, I booked myself a ticket. With that, at the end of last month, I had a chance to be one of the first passengers to fly on the aircraft in the new Pikachu Jet BC2 livery.
Below, you can learn more about both of Skymark’s Pikachu Jets as well as see what the second one’s inaugural was like.
Pokemon Air Adventures: An Effort to Promote Okinawa
On June 21, 2021, The Pokemon Company launched Pokemon Air Adventures, a project aimed at supporting the post-pandemic recovery of the air travel and tourism industry with, to begin with, a particular focus on Okinawa in Japan.
The centerpiece of the project are Flying Pikachu (a Pikachu with balloons strapped around his waist) and other Pokemon which can be found on monorail cars, buses, and even manhole covers in Okinawa. For aviation enthusiasts, however, the most exciting part of the project is aircraft wearing special Pokemon-themed liveries.
Currently, there are two – Pikachu Jet BC1 and BC2, both of which are operated by Skymark Airlines on domestic flights around Japan (their upcoming schedules can be found here). Since the project’s website says “we’re in the midst of creating more unique Pikachu Jets in other countries and regions worldwide,” there should be more coming in the future, though.
Skymark Airlines’ Pikachu Jets
The Pikachu Jet experience starts on the ground. Among other things, all Skymark’s self-check-in machine screens, boarding passes, priority/fragile luggage tags, and unaccompanied minor straps feature the theme.
At Naha airport in Okinawa, the main target area of the project, the airline went even further. There, Skymark check-in counters have Pikachu and the first Pikachu Jet all over them, and some of the ground handling vehicles feature Pokemon too.
As for the aircraft themselves, in addition to the special liveries on their exterior, the two Pikachu Jets also sport Pokemon-themed interiors. The onboard service is Pokemon-themed too. Flight attendants wear a variety of different Pokemon aprons, Pikachu makes appearances in onboard announcements, and items exclusive to the two Pokemon aircraft can be bought on board.
Drinks are served in Pikachu cups and passengers are offered Kit Kats featuring the two jets on their cover. That said, the cups and Kit Kats can be found on non-Pikachu Jet-operated Skymark flights too.
I talk more about the interior and onboard service in my report about the second Pikachu Jet’s inaugural flight further down in this article. Before that, let’s take a closer look at the two Pikachu Jets, though.
Pikachu Jet BC1
The first Pikachu Jet livery is worn by Skymark Airlines’ Boeing 737-800 registered JA73AB. The bright yellow livery features ten Flying Pikachus on its fuselage, five on each side. Additionally, there are Pikachus peeking out of the first two windows on the aircraft’s right side and even some on its belly. PokeBalls can be found on the aircraft’s engines.
After being repainted from a standard Skymark livery into the Pikachu Jet BC1 in Taipei, the aircraft was ferried back to Tokyo Haneda on June 16, 2021, as flight BC8028. Its first scheduled flight was BC519 from Tokyo Haneda to Naha on June 21, 2021.
Pikachu Jet BC2
Unlike the first Pikachu Jet, the Pikachu Jet BC2 features Pokemon other than Flying Pikachu too. It features an almost “life-size” Wailord, Magikarp, and Corsola among others. In addition to PokeBall decals on its engines, there are also Pikachu decals on the aircraft’s winglets.
The Pikachu Jet BC2 was painted into the special livery in Taipei and ferried back to Tokyo Haneda on May 28, 2022, as flight BC8014. It was put into scheduled service just a couple of days later, on May 30, 2022, on the same flight as the Pikachu Jet BC1 – BC519 from Haneda to Naha.
Flying on Skymark Pikachu Jet BC2’s Inaugural
As mentioned earlier, I was fortunate enough to be on the inaugural flight, so continue reading to see what the flight was like and to learn more about the aircraft.
Check-in and Boarding
On the day of the inaugural flight, I got to Haneda airport about two hours before the 3:35PM scheduled departure time. I got my boarding pass from one of the self-check-in kiosks and headed through security. With there being no lines, the entire process was a breeze.
It’s worth noting that while the check-in counters didn’t feature a Pokemon design, the screen on the self-check-in kiosk and the paper timetables available for passengers to take did. Of course, the boarding pass featured Pikachu too.
There were also Pokemon vending machines – presumably, those had nothing to do with Skymark, though.
Airside, I headed to gate 19 where the flight was scheduled to depart from. Around 2PM, a different Skymark flight departed from the gate, and fifteen minutes later, the Pikachu Jet BC2 was towed in.
At this point, there were already some people that were clearly waiting for the aircraft – including one passenger with a plush toy of a Pikachu in a pilot uniform. That said, there were also quite a few unsuspecting passengers just trying to make their way to Okinawa.
While boarding was meant to start at 3:15PM, it took an extra few minutes to get the plane ready. First, passengers requiring assistance were invited to board, followed by passengers seated in priority seats, and then those sitting in window seats.
Before heading down the jetway, passengers were handed out a giveaway bag containing a Pikachu Jet BC2-themed luggage tag and sticker, and a mask with a Pikachu-themed paper insert. The bag featured a cut line along which a part of it could be separated and turned into a plastic file.
After getting my bag, I headed down the jetway. At that point, I noticed that our aircraft was parked next to JAL’s 737 in the Jomon Ruins special livery – the first of the multiple special livery encounters of the flight.
While getting to my seat, I was welcomed by a small Pikachu on a decal next to the aircraft door, the flight attendants, and a pair of Pikachu plush toys displayed in the forward galley.
Once settled in my seat, 9A, I realized that there were decals on the engine and winglets’ inner sides as well. While the winglet featured a Pikachu, the left-side engine featured a Magikarp (the right one featured Corsola, although I only found that out after the flight).
Like all other Skymark 737-800s, the Pikachu Jet BC2 was equipped with 177 economy class seats in a 3-3 configuration. Each of the seats featured a Pokemon-themed headrest cover.
While the middle seat headrest covers featured a PokeBall, the window and aisle seat ones featured Pikachu. The seats in the first row which Skymark sells as “Forward Seats” with extra legroom were equipped with a different set of headrest covers featuring a Pikachu in a pilot uniform.
What I thought was, perhaps, the most creative part of the interior theming was the reading lights which were turned into PokeBalls.
Additionally, there were Pokemon stickers on the tray tables including one pointing people to the power outlets available under each seat.
Later on, I found out there were also special Pikachu-themed seat number stickers in row 25 – presumably because of this being a part of the franchise’s 25th-anniversary celebration. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that while onboard, so I wasn’t able to get a photo.
Going back to the flight itself, shortly after 3:30PM, a welcome announcement was made – not only by the cabin crew but also by Pikachu. This was just the first of several announcements which featured the Pokemon’s iconic “pika pika.”
We pushed back ten minutes behind schedule at 3:45PM. At that point, another pre-recorded announcement was made by Pikachu which was followed by a translation to “[Pikachu is] looking forward to enjoying the flight together.”
Afterward, one of the flight attendants thanked everyone onboard for flying Skymark, mentioned that the flight time would be 2 hours and 17 minutes, and introduced the cockpit crew. She also mentioned that there would be four flight attendants plus Pikachu working on the flight.
While all that was happening, the passenger sitting behind me was mentioning to her neighbor that she would be taking some photos so that she can show them off to her kids. I just love how these special livery aircraft can turn what is for many a mundane flight into something memorable.
While making our way to the runway for take-off, the flight attendants performed a manual safety demo. Another announcement introducing the Pokemon Air Adventures project and the Pikachu Jet BC2 was made too.
Prior to reaching runway 22, we taxied by another pair of special livery aircraft – ANA’s C3PO Jet and Air Do’s Rokon (Vulpix) Jet.
We took off at 3:58PM and shortly after were offered an excellent view of Haneda airport.
Five minutes after take-off, an announcement allowing the use of seat reclining was made, and another six minutes later, seatbelt signs were switched off. Not long after that, the cabin crew started getting ready to do the drink service.
In the meantime, the captain welcomed us on board. He mentioned that we were flying 36,000 feet above Aichi Prefecture. He also informed us that we were expecting to arrive at 6:20PM in Naha where it was 29 degrees Celsius and cloudy. Lastly, he said that while he didn’t know much about Pokemon, he knew Pikachu.
Apparently, the Pikachu plush toys displayed in the galley upon boarding were toys that he bought his now-four-year-old daughter when she was two years old.
The free onboard service consisted of a drink (coffee or apple juice) and a small Kit Kat. There was also a reasonably priced buy-onboard menu.
Noticing me taking a lot of photos, the flight attendant kindly offered me two Kit Kats – one featuring the Pikachu Jet BC1 on its cover and one the Pikachu Jet BC2 that we were flying on. I gladly accepted that offer, of course. Also, when I asked for an extra empty cup during the drink service, I was handed five – one of each design. How nice!
It’s also worth noting that during the service, the flight attendants wore Pokemon-themed aprons.
One of the flight attendants wore an apron that featured mainly Pikachu against a blue backdrop and another one a travel-themed apron with Pikachu, Eevee, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charmander.
Once the drink service finished, I asked one of the flight attendants if I could get a copy of the in-flight magazine as there were none in the seat pockets. In addition to some articles, the in-flight shopping catalog could be found inside the magazine too. It included items exclusive to the two Pikachu Jets – a souvenir coin and a pouch.
Inside the seat pocket were a safety card and a Pokemon-themed waste bag.
Arrival in Naha
During the rest of the flight, I got some work done and enjoyed the views out of the window – especially of the Pikachu and Magikarp decals.
We started our descent around 5:53PM and just a few minutes later, we flew past Yoron Island – the southernmost island of the Amami archipelago.
Then, at 6:02PM, the seatbelt signs were switched back on in preparation for landing. A few more minutes of descending through a layer of thick clouds followed. This resulted in a nice shadow of our aircraft surrounded by a halo being visible.
We landed on Naha airport’s runway 18L at 6:17PM and reached our gate, gate 21, at 6:24PM – four minutes behind schedule.
While taxiing, JTA’s Jimbei Jet was being pushed back, providing one last encounter with another special livery on the flight.
After we came to a full stop, I waited for everyone to disembark so that I could get a few empty cabin photos. By that time, the two Pikachu plush toys were seated in seat 1C.
With enough photos taken, I thanked the flight attendants and disembarked, heading into the hot and humid terminal.
Looking back at the aircraft through the terminal windows, it was already being prepared for its next flight. Most notably, an aircraft tug with a Pikachu decal was already attached to the plane.
At some point, a container towing car featuring both the former and current Skymark logos and containers with Children’s Day and Mother’s day messages stopped in front of the tug, creating quite a unique scene.
Second Flight Send-Off
With the flight finished, I headed to the airport’s food court to grab a quick bite to eat before heading back through security and catching my flight back to Tokyo.
While making my way to and from dinner, I had a chance to see the Pokemon-themed decorations around Naha airport including the bright yellow Skymark check-in desks and the food court area.
Back airside, prior to boarding my return flight, I stopped by gate 21 to take some pictures of the Pikachu Jet BC2’s second scheduled flight departure. Instead of flying back to Tokyo, the aircraft flew to Fukuoka as flight BC508.
Not long after I watched the Pikachu Jet take-off, boarding for my JAL flight back to Tokyo started, bringing the quick and tiring but worthwhile visit to Naha airport to an end.
While Solaseed Air has been operating a 737-800 with Pokemon decals for quite some time, I was really happy when Skymark introduced the first full-scale special Pokemon livery since ANA’s retirement of its iconic Pokemon Jets. I was even happier to learn that the airline would be introducing another such plane.
Having missed the Pikachu Jet BC1’s inaugural, I couldn’t miss the BC2’s one. Now, all I have to do is catch a flight on the first one. And, of course, on any Pokemon-themed aircraft which will hopefully be introduced in the future.