Japan’s Toki Air Now Plans January 2024 Launch: “Will It Fly?”

It is not often that a new airline gets launched in a country one lives in. As such, I have been eagerly following the journey of Toki Air, a Japanese start-up airline that intends to operate regional flights primarily out of Niigata Airport.

After a number of delays in launching scheduled flights and going off the radar (at least in terms of announcements related to its scheduled operations), today, the airline finally outlined its latest launch plan. Most importantly, it now plans to commence scheduled flights at the end of January 2024.

Continue reading to learn more about the airline and its upcoming plans.

Toki Air
Toki Air plans to use a fleet of ATRs on regional flights out of Niigata. (Credit: ATR)

Toki Air Plans to Commence Scheduled Flights in January 2024

Toki Air took delivery of the first of its two ATR 72s over a year ago, in October 2022. Now, it has a fleet of two. While the two aircraft have been flying on training flights since then, the airline’s plans to launch scheduled flights in the summer of 2023 (or 2023 in general) didn’t come to fruition.

Instead, the airline now plans to launch its first scheduled route connecting Niigata with Sapporo on January 31, 2024. In Sapporo, it will fly to Okadama Airport which is closer to the city center than the main New Chitose Airport. Toki Air plans to connect the two cities four days a week. It plans to operate two roundtrips on each of the four days, allowing for day trips.

Toki Air Launch
Toki Air plans to launch scheduled operations in January 2024 now. (Credit: ATR)

The exact schedule of the flights has not been confirmed yet. The flights are expected to go on sale on Toki Air’s website sometime in mid-January 2024.

Toki Air plans to price the flights for between 6,900 yen and 29,000 yen depending on the fare type and specific flight. It also plans to offer a special 12,500 yen fare for those aged between 12 and 25 years and 16,900 yen for disabled people (including one accompanying person).

Once the flights to Sapporo Okadama are running, the airline expects it will need at least two months to launch its next destination – Sendai. Other destinations on Toki Air’s radar include Nagoya Chubu and Kobe. Once it takes delivery of ATR 42-600Ss, the airline also plans to operate to Sado Island where the type’s STOL (short takeoff and landing) capability is necessary.

Toki Air Route Map
Toki Air’s planned routes. (Generated using Great Circle Mapper)

Will Toki Air Last?

As much as I am rooting for Toki Air, I cannot help but wonder if the airline will last longer than just a few seasons. In addition to starting up a successful airline simply being incredibly hard, there are a couple of reasons that make me think so.

First, while Toki Air will be the first airline to offer flights between Niigata and Sapporo Okadama, it will not be the first one to connect the two cities.

Both ANA and JAL offer two daily flights between Niigata and Sapporo New Chitose. While Okadama is definitely more convenient, that convenience will be diminished by the limited frequencies and the lack of frequent flyer benefits for the likes of Star Alliance Gold and oneworld Sapphire members. Additionally, ANA’s and JAL’s sales channels are just much larger.

J-Air E170
JAL’s subsidiary J-Air operates flights between Niigata and Sapporo New Chitose.

Second, even though there is currently no airline operating non-stop flights between Niigata and Sendai, Nagoya, and Kobe, I am not convinced there is enough demand between these cities to warrant such flights.

As for Niigata – Sendai, I simply wonder if there is enough demand at all.

The Niigata – Nagoya route is in a similar situation as Niigata – Sapporo. I.e. there is already competition but not on the exact same route. Instead, JAL’s partner Fuji Dream Airlines operates two daily rotations between Niigata and Nagoya Komaki Airport which is located closer to the city center than Chubu.

Lastly, there likely is some demand on the Niigata – Kobe route.

However, that demand is currently served by a dozen daily flights from Niigata to Osaka Itami by ANA, JAL, and Ibex, and a daily Peach flight to Osaka Kansai. With that, like with the Sapporo flights, I do not think the convenience of flying directly to Kobe will outweigh the inconvenience of limited frequencies among other things. 

Chances are that to succeed long term, Toki Air will need to follow a model similar to that of Fuji Dream Airlines. That is, to develop a close partnership with either ANA or JAL in a way that will make Toki Air complement the partner’s route network while allowing it to take advantage of its extensive distribution channels.

Fuji Dream Airlines
Fuji Dream Airlines operates flights between Niigata and Nagoya Komaki.


Japan’s Toki Air finally appears to be ready to launch scheduled flights. While it was originally meant to launch its first route, Niigata – Sapporo Okadama in the summer of 2023, that has been postponed to the end of January 2024. After that, it plans to expand its network to also include Sendai, Kobe, Nagoya, and Sado.

Given the existing competition on the Niigata – Sapporo route (albeit to New Chitose Airport) and the, in my opinion, questionable viability of the other routes, it will be interesting to see how the airline’s business develops and to what extent it manages to succeed.

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