Featured Image: Fabrizio Spicuglia/Airways

Trip Report: Flying the Amakusa Flying Dolphin

DALLAS – Welcome to Amakusa-Shi, a Japanese town on Shimoshima Island, the biggest of the approximately 120 islands composing the Amakusa Region. 

This region is popular among tourists due to its spectacular landscapes, including incredible mountains and beaches. These make it the perfect region for outdoor activities such as hiking or diving, which stands out due to its marine biodiversity.

Flight Details

On this trip report, Airways flew from Amakusa (AXJ) to Fukuoka (FUK) with Amakusa Airlines (AHX) on their beautiful “Mizoca.”

We flew from AXJ, a small airport located 7 kilometers away from Amakusa-Shi. Due to the shorter runway (1000m/3281ft), AXJ can only accommodate small aircraft, and the only regional aircraft available to operate in Japan is the ATR 42-600. 

The 3600 square meter ramp only has two remote stands, enough for the four daily AHX flights.

Amakusa Airlines History

Amakusa Airlines (AHX) is a small airline based at AXJ. Founded in 1998, AHX received its first aircraft in November 1999, a De Havilland Dash DHC-8-100Q with MSN537 and registration JA81AM. In August 2015, AHX took delivery of its second aircraft, an ATR 42-600 with registration JA01AM ((MSN1202). 

This turboprop is a special aircraft as it was the first ATR 42-600 delivered to Japan, and due to its curious livery, it is painted like a “dolphin,” an important animal to Amakusa due to the diversity of species that live on their waters. 

In February 2016, AHX retired its Dash 8-100, leaving the carrier with the sole ATR 42-600, which in 2023 operated 3,650 flights to/from AXJ. AHX is essential to Amakusa-Shi because it provides the fastest way to travel to the island.

Airport Experience

Amakusa Airlines has a shuttle service to connect the city and the airport for each flight; this bus is only available when there are flights, which means you can not go to the airport by bus when you want. After the 15-minute journey, this bus will arrive at the airport just in time to check in, which is fast because there are not too many people flying. 

When the quick check-in process was complete, the security gates were still closed, so we had enough time to visit the small observation deck, see the airport’s photo wall, and see my plane arriving from Kumamoto (KMJ) and take some photos. 

You can also buy Amakusa Airlines (AHX) “Mizoca” merchandise such as T-shirts, stickers, keychains, etc.

Time to Fly!

When it’s time for the flight, they open the security gate; this process takes between 3 and 5 minutes; it is probably the fastest security check Fabrizio have ever done. When you pass through, you end up in a small room where they explain to passengers how to walk to the plane, why they can not get off the signalized path, and more security things. 

When they end the security speech, it’s time to board the plane, and during the short walk to the aircraft, they let you take photos of the aircraft without any problems, but you have to be fast because there are not too many passengers and this makes the boarding shorter.

The first thing we noticed after boarding the plane was the maroon seats, which quickly made us think about “Binter Canarias,” which also uses this color in its interiors. 

The second thing we noticed was the different designs of headrest covers; every seat had a different one; there were dolphins, various kinds of flowers, birds, and more icons.

The seat was standard on an ATR, perfect for short flights, and had comfortable legroom. This ATR 42-600 is configured with 48 economy seats in a 2-2 configuration. The first row of seats on the right side faces the second row, which is perfect if you are a group of four flying together.

On the seat, you can find an in-flight magazine, a safety card about Amakusa Airport (AXJ), one about emergency evacuations, and the ATR 42-600 safety card with a beautiful dolphin design.

My 30-minute flight was MZ105 from AXJ to Fukuoka (FUK). It was the seventh flights the turboprop operated that day. We took off from AXJ at 16:00, and due to the short flight duration, the flight attendant had no time to offer drinks or snacks. 

I spent the whole flight looking out the window and reading the in-flight magazine, which has a lot of information about the airline.

After 32 minutes in the turbulent air due to mountain winds, we safely landed at FUK at 16:32 local time.

Arrival

After two pleasant flights with AHX, the flight attendant kindly gave me a gift during the de-boarding, which I appreciate! That day, I took the morning flight to Amakusa (AMX102) with the same flight crew.

The flight from AXJ to FUK is short; you do not have too much time to enjoy the plane and discover things and also do not have too much time to interact with the crew, but the few seconds I have had, they where kindly. 

On this special trip report, there is no service to evaluate, but it is important to highlight the ground crew's attention (check-in, security, ramp).

Amakusa is a small town famous for the fresh seafood served in its restaurants. It was nice to visit a traditional village like Amakusa. I spent one day there, and I would like to come back and explore the island, see dolphins in their natural habitat, and fly again with Amakusa Airlines to their home.

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