The Japanese unit of Malaysia's budget airline AirAsia Group said Tuesday it has filed for bankruptcy due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on travel demand, with a lawyer saying the unit is unable to refund around 23,000 air tickets.

In seeking protection from creditors, AirAsia Japan Co. becomes the first airline company operating in Japan to go bankrupt due to the pandemic. Its total liabilities were 21.7 billion yen ($208 million), the airline said.

Tamotsu Ueno, a court-appointed lawyer handling the company's protection from creditors, said at a press conference that refunds were not possible for around 23,000 tickets directly purchased from AirAsia Japan.

The total worth of tickets yet to be refunded is estimated at 520 million yen, including tickets purchased via travel agencies.

Ueno also said AirAsia Japan will ask shareholders including e-commerce company Rakuten Inc. for help on the remaining refunds.

Customers could receive credits for other flights operated by the group, instead of cash refunds, the lawyer added.

AirAsia Japan, based in Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture, said in October it would end all flights connecting Chubu Centrair International Airport in the prefecture with Sapporo, Sendai and Fukuoka as well as Taipei by Dec. 5.

The budget airline relaunched services in Japan with new partners including Rakuten in 2017, after withdrawing in 2013.

It grounded all flights in April due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. It resumed domestic flights in August, but the number of passengers remained low and all of its services were suspended again in October.