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If you are still mourning the loss of Japan’s Pokémon jumbo jet and prefer to fly the friendly skies in something overbearingly cute, look no further than Amakusa Airlines and its dolphin-themed airplane. Although the Kyushuu-based company is the smallest airline in Japan, Amakusa more than makes up for its size with a strong social media presence, a unique all-day flight challenge and its lone Bombardier Dash 8 turboprop plane painted up to look like a dolphin mother and two dolphin babies. Click below to find out why this tiny airline has captured the hearts of aviation fans in Japan!

Based out of the Amakusa islands off the coast of mainland Kyushuu in southern Japan, the airline began flying to nearby Kumamoto City, Fukuoka and Osaka in 2000. Although it has just one 39-passenger plane making up to 10 flights per day between the four airports, Amakusa Airlines has served more than one million people.

▼ The four airports that make up Amakusa Airlines’s tiny route map

2014.03.22 planes map copyImage: Amakusa Airlines

The mascot for Amakusa Airlines is a dolphin since the islands are well-known for being a great spot to watch the aquatic sea creature swimming in their natural habitat. Last year, the company announced that it was redesigning its only plane to become a flying mascot.

2014.03.22 planes 2Image: Facebook (Amakusa Airlines)

2014.03.22 planes 5Image: Facebook (Amakusa Airlines)

It also held a nationwide contest to name the trio of dolphins that would adorn the plane. The mother dolphin, painted along the main body, was named “Mizoka” since it means “cute” in the local Amakusa dialect. The mother dolphin is joined by her two babies, painted on two turboprop engines. The baby dolphins are named “Kai” and “Haru,” after two Japanese characters that mean “clear day” when combined.

▼ Getting up-close with one of the dolphin baby engines

2014.03.22 planes 4Image: Facebook (Amakusa Airlines)

Mother and baby get ready to take flight

2014.03.22 planes 7Image: Facebook (Amakusa Airlines)

To appeal to plane fans, Amakusa Airlines announced back in January that they would offer a “One-Day Paradise Dolphin Flight” challenge where customers could pay 15,000 yen (US$146) to fly all 10 daily flight routes between the four airports, which takes about 11 hours. As part of the challenge, a customer signs an agreement to fly all 10 legs with the airline in one day or they have to pay the full price of all 10 flights. Someone who didn’t fly all 10 routes would have to pay at least 133,300 yen ($1,303), according to the current fares on their website.

▼ Despite the cute bear adorning the seats, we’re not sure spending close to 11 hours inside this plane is worth it

2014.03.22 planes 6Image: Facebook (Amakusa Airlines)

The promotion is aimed at airplane geeks who can’t get enough of air travel since the tight flight schedule means you cannot leave the airport without missing the next leg of the challenge. There is also an 8-leg version of the challenge which costs 5,000 yen ($49) less. Strangely enough, the airline used to sell a 2-day “all you can fly” pass, but it didn’t do nearly as well as this promotion seems to be. CEO Toru Okushima has said that this kind of campaign is part of his goal to be remembered as “the airline that would do what others wouldn’t” instead of just pursuing profits.

▼ The certificates for completing the “One-Day Paradise Dolphin Flight” challenge and the special badge participants wear while flying

2014.03.22 planes 9Image: Facebook (Amakusa Airlines)

Would you take a flight on an adorable dolphin turboprop plane? We would love to hear in the comments below if you have ever taken a flight on Amakusa Airlines or if you would take up the 11-hour 10-flight “One-Day Paradise Dolphin Flight” challenge!

Feature Image: Facebook (Amakusa Airlines)
Source: Naver Matome