Monday, March 31, 2014

ANA Jumbo bids farewell to Fukuoka and Sapporo.

Yesterday on March 30th, All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) flew its last remaining 'Jumbo Jet', Boeing 747-481/D JA8961, to Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF) and Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) one last time. (ANA loads final Boeing 747 revenue flights.)
Boeing 747-481/D JA8961 seen off by ANA staff at Fukuoka. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Flight NH243 departed from Tokyo/Haneda's (HND/RJTT) Gate 66 at 0847 with 540 passengers and 15 crew (2 cockpit crew and 13 flight attendants) on board. The aircraft arrived at Fukuoka at 1036, greeted by dozens of ANA staff on the apron with the huge 'Thanks Jumbo!' banner and artificial sunflowers. The return flight, NH250, departed Fukuoka at 1153, 43 minutes behind schedule, with 564 passengers and 15 crew and arrived back at Haneda at 1352, roughly a hour late.
Carrying the 'Thanks Jumbo!' banner, staff who worked with the aircraft for years, or some even decades, couldn't help crying. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

After arrival from Fukuoka, JA8961 prepared for NH069, service to New Chitose. Carrying 538 passengers and 15 crew, it departed at 1535, 35 minutes behind schedule, and arrived at Hokkaido's capital at 1703. The airport greeted the final visit with a traditional water-cannon salute, and a Boeing 747 photo gallery was also held inside the terminal. NH074, the return leg to Haneda, departed Sapporo at 1820 with 557 passengers and 15 crew, and arrived back in Tokyo at 2000.
ANA staff at New Chitose bids farewell to JA8961 for the last time. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Thousands of aviation fans gathered at both airports to see off the 'Queen of the Skies', along with a number of ANA staff, some of who couldn't hold on to their tears. Today, ANA will operate the B747's final revenue flights, a round-trip to Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH). Stay tuned.

Source: Aviation Wire, March 30th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, March 30th. (in Japanese)

ANA's Summer 2014 international expansion.

Here's a review of All Nippon Airways' (NH/ANA) timetable changes for international routes from Summer 2014, which started on March 30th. Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) sees international operations being expanded dramatically, resulting from ANA's receiving of 11 prized slots for international routes at the heavily-regulated airport near downtown Tokyo.
Boeing 777-281 JA711A in Star Alliance livery taxies at Haneda. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

New Routes/Resumptions:
Haneda - Hanoi/Noi Bai (HAN/VVNB) NEW 1 daily with 76W/763.
NH857 HND 0855 – 1205 HAN 76W/763 Daily *788 from June 1st.
NH858 HAN 1400 – 2105 HND 76W/763 Daily *788 from June 1st.


Haneda - Jakarta/Soekarno-Hatta (CGK/WIII) NEW 1 daily with 788.
NH855 HND 1005 – 1540 CGK 788 Daily
NH856 CGK 2125 – 0710(+1) HND 788 Daily


Haneda - London/Heathrow (LHR/EGLL) NEW 1 daily with 77W.
NH277 HND 1130 – 1600 LHR 77W Daily
NH278 LHR 1935 – 1515(+1) HND 77W Daily


Haneda - Manila/Ninoy Aquino (MNL/RPLL) NEW 1 daily with 76W/763.
NH869 HND 0955 – 1330 MNL 76W/763 Daily *788 from May 1st.
NH870 MNL 1440 – 1955 HND 76W/763 Daily *788 from May 1st.

Haneda - Munich (MUC/EDDM) NEW 1 daily with 788.
NH275 HND 1235 – 1720 MUC 788 Daily
NH276 MUC 2125 – 1550(+1) HND 788 Daily


Haneda - Paris/Charles de Gaulle (CDG/LFPG) NEW 1 daily with 77W.
NH215 HND 1025 – 1545 CDG 77W Daily
NH216 CDG 2110 – 1600(+1) HND 77W Daily


Haneda - Vancouver (YVR/CYVR) NEW 1 daily with 76W/763.
NH116 HND 2155 – 1455 YVR 76W/763 Daily
NH115 YVR 1655 – 1905(+1) HND 76W/763 Daily


Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) - Dusseldorf (DUS/EDDL) NEW 1 daily with 788.
NH941 NRT 1100 – 1600 DUS 788 Daily
NH942 DUS 1835 – 1300(+1) NRT 788 Daily


Frequency Increases:
Haneda - Bangkok/Suvarnabhumi (BKK/VTBS) from 1 to 2 daily.
NH849 HND 0025 – 0500 BKK 772 Daily *788 from August 1st.
NH847 HND 1050 – 1525 BKK 76W/763 Daily *NEW. 788 from July 1st.
NH848 BKK 1025 – 1845 HND 772 Daily *NEW. 788 from August 1st.
NH850 BKK 2225 – 0640(+1) HND 76W/763 Daily *788 from July 1st.


Haneda - Frankfurt/Main (FRA/EDDF) from 1 to 2 daily.
NH203 HND 0100 – 0610 FRA 788 Daily
NH223 HND 1125 – 1635 FRA 77W Daily *NEW

NH204 FRA 1200 – 0625(+1) HND 788 Daily
NH224 FRA 2045 – 1455(+1) HND 77W Daily *NEW


Haneda - Singapore/Changi (SIN/WSSS) from 1 to 2 daily.
NH841 HND 1105 – 1720 SIN 788 Daily *NEW
NH843 HND 2350 – 0615(+1) SIN 788 Daily
NH842 SIN 1150 – 2000 HND 788 Daily *NEW
NH844 SIN 2215 – 0630(+1) HND 788 Daily


Schedule Changes:
Haneda - Seoul/Gimpo (GMP/RKSS) schedule adjustments and equipment changes.
NH1161 HND 0850 – 1115 GMP 772 Daily
NH1165 HND 1620 – 1845 GMP 772 Daily
NH1167 HND 2005 – 2225 GMP 77W Daily

NH1160 GMP 0740 – 0950 HND 77W Daily
NH1162 GMP 1235 – 1440 HND 772 Daily
NH1166 GMP 2005 – 2215 HND 772 Daily


Frequency Reductions:
Narita - Bangkok/Suvarnabhumi from 2 to 1 daily. 
Narita- Singapore/Changi from 2 to 1 daily.

Suspensions:
Narita - Frankfurt/Main.
Narita - London/Heathrow. 
Narita - Munich.

In summary, five of the awarded slots at Haneda are being used to shift services from Narita, and five are for new services, while one new slot to China remains unused due to regulatory issues on the Chinese side. Together with joint-venture and Star Alliance partner Deutsche Lufthansa (LH/DLH), the two airlines will control nearly 90% of the non-stop Japan - Germany market capacity-wise.

For Japan Airlines' (JL/JAL) international flight changes from March 30th, please see our past 'JAL announces Summer 2014 international plans.' post.

Source: All Nippon Airways, December 9th. (in Japanese)
Source: All Nippon Airways, December 18th. (in Japanese)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

BusinessFlyer KL671: AMS - YUL on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines' Boeing 747.

Travel date: February 2014
Flight: KL671
Route: Amsterdam/Schiphol (AMS/EHAM) - Montreal/Trudeau (YUL/CYUL)
Carrier: Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij (KL/KLM) d.b.a. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing 747-406/M PH-BFT 'City of Tokyo'
Class: World Business Class (Business)
Direct distance: 5,519km (3,430 miles)
Flight time: 6 hours 58 minutes
Boeing 747-406/M PH-BFT 'City of Tokyo' at Schiphol's Gate E17. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

As a SkyTeam Elite Plus member, having access to the SkyPriority check-in lanes at Schiphol Airport (AMS/EHAM) was a big advantage. Amsterdam being the hub for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL/KLM), there were ample check-in counters, and I was immediately served. Staff told me that I might be upgraded to World Business Class since the economy cabin was overbooked. I proceeded to immigration, where a priority lane was available and again there was no line. After immigration awaits Schiphol’s seductive ‘See Buy Fly’ terminal shopping complex, which has a range of stores from top-end brand shops to gift shops and bookstores to even a division of the Rijksmuseum.
KLM Crown Lounge at Schiphol. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

I strolled over to the KLM Crown Lounge, located on the second floor, where I was informed that I indeed had received a complementary upgrade. With a spacious, quiet atmosphere, the lounge offered a variety of free newspapers to major magazines, as well as a good range of foods; for that day was Massaman curry, fried chicken, fried rice, cheese, soup, along with snacks and a variety of drinks.
My seat for the next seven hours. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

At 1430, I traveled to Gate E17, about halfway down the corridor of the E wing, and noticed that the ship had been switched from a McDonnell Douglas MD-11 to a Boeing 747-400M (Combi). I was looking forward to flying on the Long Beach-born tri-jet, but I tried to tell myself the complementary upgrade to business was in exchange for that. The aircraft was B747-406/M PH-BFT ‘City of Tokyo’, delivered back in May 15, 1997, and one of 15 'Combi' Jumbos the airline currently operates. Schiphol carries out security checks at each gate instead of the immigrations area, and they had already begun with a very long line, but again, SkyPriority made it relatively hassle-free.
Appetizer for the first meal. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Boarding began at 1500, starting with groups with handicapped persons and infants, followed by World Business Class and SkyTeam Elite Plus passengers. KLM’s B747-400Ms seat 14 World Business Class seats on the upper deck, 18 at the front of the main deck, as well as 36 Economy Comfort, and 197 Economy seats, for a total of 275. My seat on flight KL671 was at the front, and as I was seated, a welcome drink was served, from a choice of water, orange juice, or champagne. As time passed 1525, the flight’s departure time, the crew announced that we would be 15 minutes late due to some paperwork. Was it due to a last-minute ship change?
Entering England from near Sunderland. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

At 1544, the door was finally closed, and two minutes later, the aircraft was pushed back. We headed to Runway 24 ‘Kaagbaan’, named after the Kagerplassen which lies at the end of the runway, for a takeoff at 1557 CET. How quiet it can be at the front end of the ‘Queen of the Skies’! Our aircraft banked to the left, then to the right over to North Sea, where we could see a Brocken phenomenon for a short time. Eight minutes later the seat-belt signs were turned off, and the flight attendants started preparing for in-flight service.
Our main course for the first meal; a Dutch treat. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

About 20 minutes into the flight, they started out with a mix of nuts along with a drink of our choice. I chose apple juice, which was very good. As the crew was getting ready, we crossed into Great Britain below us, south of Sunderland, about 35 minutes into the flight. As we were passing through Scotland, just south of Glasgow, we started encountering some rough air.
Dessert: pomegranate gateau. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Meal service, produced by Michelin award winner chef Sergio Herman, was started about 70 minutes into the flight. First came the appetizer, which was smoked salmon and an apple and fennel cream garnished with citrus jelly and served with wasabi yuzu vinegarette. This became my favorite for this flight; everything on the plate seemed to harmonize with each other on the taste buds. The wine selection for tonight was Malbec, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. As we were served, light turbulence continued to bother our dining, and the seat-belt signs had to be left on.
The General Electric CF6-80C2 engines. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Half a hour after the appetizer came the main meal; I selected the braised beef tartlet accompanied by mustard sauce, Oud Sluis-style lentils, and pumpkin mash, baby potatoes, and sauteed mushrooms. It came along with a pickled vegetable salad and warmed bread buns. The seat-belt lights were finally turned off about 40 minutes after we started dining, and at that time the flight attendants were ready to serve dessert. Passing south off the coast of Iceland, I chose pomegranate gateau, and had it with black tea. I did take some time to savor the cake, but the crew seemed to have forgotten that I still had a plate with me and didn’t come until I asked them to take it away.
Front cabin of our Boeing 747-400M. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

About 30 minutes later, the cabin lights were dimmed and everyone started to doze off. About three hours into the flight came the Captain’s welcome announcement, and soon after followed duty free sales. Half a hour later, we were able to see Greenland and its icebergs which seemed to have wandered from the coast. After clouds came in and started obstructing our view, I decided to take a nap.
Greenland and its icebergs. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

About one hour and a half hours later, or two hours before arrival time, we were served a light second meal, which consisted of a marrowfat pea salad accompanied by falafel and piccalilli cream. It came with a choice of chicken pie or a basil pie served with tomato and mozzarella cheese, and finished with raspberry cheese cake with vanilla sauce. As I became full and the flight attendants collected my tray, they came around handing out 'KLM Dutch House' blue delft houses, a Dutch specialty. KLM currently offers 94 different houses, and I chose Number 25, named 'Gouda'.
Our second meal. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Soon after, about half an hour before landing, our Captain announced that we had started our descent into Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport (YUL/CYUL). Flying along the St. Lawrence River, snow-covered houses started to appear below followed by the skyline of Montreal city, and we touched down on Runway 24R at 1655 EDT, completing an almost seven-hour flight. Montreal is six hours behind Amsterdam. We taxied to Gate 55 for an on-time arrival at 1700. We were off the aircraft in minutes, but with some other European flights arriving in as well, it took another 25 minutes or so to get through immigrations, which isn't too bad in North America.
Canada's vast snow-covered land. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Having Elite Plus membership allowed me to breeze through what otherwise could have been a very stressful part of traveling. I only needed to line up at gate security, and in the end I was upgraded to business class. KLM offers efficient and consistent service, but its business class pales in comparison to top-class Asian airlines as well as the 'Big Three' in the Middle East. Except for the appetizer of the first meal, the flight left me with no particular impression; neither good nor bad. The two cabin crew serving our section were helpful, but present only when it was time to serve something, and for one of them I wasn't able to see a smile throughout the flight. The current World Business Class seats are showing their age, and KLM is in the process of refurbishing them, but if the flight attendants were smiling a little more and observant, walking around the cabin to see what each passengers is doing and think what the customer may need, it might help even more.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Japan Transocean Air decides on Boeing 737-800s.

On March 27th, Japan Transocean Air (NU/JTA) announced that they have chosen the Boeing 737-800 to succeed its B737-400s. Deliveries will start in January 2016, and a dozen will be acquired to replace the current airframes on a one-to-one basis. JTA currently operates 13 B737-400s, of which one will be phased out this May.
A rendering of JTA's Boeing 737-800s. Will the 'Jimbei couple' be continued with the new jets? (Image: Boeing)

The new B737-800s will have the latest PIPs (Performance Improvement Packages) incorporated and will also be fitted with Boeing's Sky Interior with Dreamliner-style cabin lighting. JTA is planning to seat 165, comprising 20 Class J (domestic business class) and 145 economy seats, standardizing with 70%-owner Japan Airlines' (JL/JAL) B737-800s. JTA's current B737-400s seat either 145 (20 Class J and 125 economy) or 150 (all economy). The Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH)-based airline has the option to convert to the upcoming B737 MAX from their seventh aircraft onwards.

JTA's fleet renewal comes at a transitional period, when Boeing's best-selling narrowbody jetliner will start to move on to its fourth generation. They probably wanted the newest version, but with their B737-400s showing its age with the oldest being 19 years old, they couldn't wait. Deliveries of the MAX are to begin in 2017, but early delivery slots are probably already full. And they do have the option to convert half of the order to the MAX, but personally speaking, they probably won't exercise it to keep commonality, unless they acquire more and Boeing offers JTA to take back the B737-800s.

Source: Japan Transocean Air, March 27th. (PDF; in Japanese)

JAL Express to be absorbed by JAL on October 1st.

On March 26th, Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) announced that 100%-owned subsidiary JAL Express (JC/JEX) would be merged into JAL effective October 1st. JAL Express currently operates 39 Boeing 737-800s on domestic routes on behalf of its parent.
Boeing 737-846(WL) JA302J has been wearing 'Ganbaro Nippon' decals since the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami disaster. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

JAL Express was originally set up on April 1st, 1997 and inaugurated service on July 1st, 1998 as a lower-cost subsidiary taking over some of its parent's regional domestic routes with Boeing 737-400s transferred from JAL. It later went on to operate some McDonnell Douglas MD-81s JAL inherited from the merger with Japan Air System (JD/JAS) between 2005 and 2010, but with the transferring of its remaining B737-400s to sister Japan Transocean Air (NU/JTA) in 2011, the fleet was standardized on B737-800s. It currently forms the backbone of JAL's regional domestic network from Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT).

JAL Express formed the basis for the now lower-cost JAL. The carrier's flight attendants were originally called 'SkyCasts', where they were also responsible for cabin cleaning (mainline JAL hired outside firms just to clean the aircraft) and implemented quick turnaround times, increasing fleet utilization. Until the current uniforms were introduced in June 2013, 'SkyCasts' wore a red-based coat-style uniform, different from mainline JAL. It originally targeted a 20% reduction in overall costs compared to its parent.

Now that JAL has shed a lot of costs, especially during its bankruptcy, JAL employees essentially carry out the same tasks and amount of work that JAL Express staff do, so presumably, it became unnecessary to keep JAL Express. Furthermore, the majority of JAL Express' flight attendants are said to be on few-year contracts, so merging that employee base into JAL prevents them from joining other carriers, like the growing LCCs. This is similar to what ANA did when they upgraded all contracted employees to full-time staff last year to prevent a 'brain drain'.

Source: Japan Airlines, March 26th. (in Japanese)

Friday, March 28, 2014

ANA selects Boeing 777-9X and Airbus A321neo.

On March 27th, ANA Holdings, parent of All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA), announced that they have decided to place an order for 70 aircraft with Airbus and Boeing covering five types, including the Boeing 777-9X and Airbus A321neo. Total value exceeds 1,700 billion JPY at list prices, and this will be the largest order in ANA history both in terms of value and number of aircraft.
The Boeing 777-9X, 787-9, Airbus A321neo, and A320neo in ANA livery. (Image: ANA)

For widebody aircraft, ANA will buy 20 B777-9Xs to replace B777-300ERs starting in fiscal year 2021. Until their delivery, as an interim measure, an additional six B777-300ERs will be acquired for delivery between fiscal years 2018 and 2019, which would bring the B777-300ER fleet to 28. A top-up order of 14 B787-9s are also being placed, making ANA the biggest Dreamliner operator with 80 ordered (36 B787-8s and 44 B787-9s). So this means all B777-300ERs will be replaced by B777-9Xs, and all other current-generation widebodies (B777-200/200ER/300 and B767-300/300ER) will be replaced by B787s.

For narrowbody aircraft, 30 Airbus A320neo family aircraft are being acquired. Comprised of 23 A321neo and seven A320neo, deliveries are to begin with the latter in fiscal year 2016 and the former in fiscal year 2017. The new Airbus narrowbodies will replace ANA's remaining current-generation A320s and B737-500s. ANA briefly operated a total of seven A321-100s between 1998 and 2008 (originally as a B767-200 replacement), so this would be a comeback of the type.

First of all, the folks at Seattle must be relieved. Japan Airlines' (JL/JAL) order for 31 Airbus A350 XWBs last year shocked all (and probably Boeing the most), so this brings some 'competition balance'. Boeing must have provided a hefty discount to win this order, since reports one year ago told ANA was also leaning towards the Airbus product, with officials calling the B777-9X "too capable and too expensive". For the Dreamliners, ANA will probably switch to or order some B787-10s at some point, since the B787-9 is too small to replace the domestic 514-seat B777-300s and Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) is expected to remain a slot-restricted airport for the foreseeable future.

And for the narrowbodies, at least two questions arise; ANA already has 15 Mitsubishi MRJ90s on order intended as replacements for their B737-500s, but numerous delays have pushed back service entry of the type to mid-2017 at earliest, so I guess ANA had to come up with Plan B. But then what will ANA use the MRJs for? Leaving room for further delays, they may end up replacing older Bombardier DHC-8-400Qs. Secondly, why just 'seven' A320neo? ANA already operates a sizable fleet of B737-800s with more on order, so why not more of that or the B737max? Rumor has it that these seven are intended for 100%-subsidiary LCC Vanilla Air (JW/VNL).

Except for the B777-9Xs, the majority of this order will be delivered by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics/Paralympics and Japan targets 20 million annual visitors from overseas.

Source: ANA Holdings, March 27th. (in Japanese)

*Post edited/updated on March 30th.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

JAL's fleet strategies for 'Rolling Plan 2014'.

On March 27th, Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) released its 'Rolling Plan 2014', as part of their mid-to-long-term strategies for fiscal years 2012 - 2016.
Boeing 777-289 JA8978 'Ganbare Nippon!' supporting the national team for the Sochi 2014 Olympics/Paralympics. The decals were taken off in early March. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Nothing new regarding their upcoming network developments was revealed, including strengthening their dual international hubs at Tokyo's Haneda (HND/RJTT) and Narita (NRT/RJAA) airports (JAL announces Summer 2014 international plans.), while also planning to restart viable long-haul services from Nagoya/Chubu Centrair (NGO/RJGG) and Osaka/Kansai (KIX/RJBB) (JAL to resume Kansai to London and Los Angeles in 2015.), and relaunching regional domestic routes (JAL to resume six domestic routes for Summer 2014.), most of which were suspended during JAL's bankruptcy.

However, some new updates regarding its fleet plans have been provided. Deliveries of Boeing 787-9s, the first stretched variant of the Dreamliner, will start in fiscal year 2015, and the airline plans to have 33 Dreamliners by the end of fiscal year 2016. JAL has ordered 25 B787-8s and 20 B787-9s, of which 14 of the former have already been delivered. Meanwhile, the renewal of Japan Transocean Air's (NU/JTA) B737 'Classics' fleet will also start in fiscal year 2015. The Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH)-based subsidiary currently operates 13 B737-400s. All of JAL's 50 B737-800s ordered have now be delivered, so are additional orders on the way? Older B777s and B767s will gradually be retired, and the plan calls for a fleet of 82 international and 140 domestic aircraft (222 total) by fiscal year 2016's end. Preparations are also under way to introduce Airbus A350 XWBs from fiscal year 2019.

On the in-flight product side, JAL will start putting its award-winning 'Sky Suite' seats and interiors on its B787s delivered from fiscal year 2014. One additional B787-8 remains to be delivered this month for a total of 15, so maybe their 16th will have it? The stretched B787-9s will be configured with 'Sky Suite' from first delivery. Introduced on their flagship B777-300ERs in January 2013, 'Sky Suite' was expanded to selected B767-300ERs as 'Sky Suite II' in December 2013 and additional airframes are receiving the refurbishment (JAL adding more Sky Suite destinations.). New 'JAL Sky Next' revamped domestic aircraft are on schedule for July (JAL Sky Next new domestic product unveiled.) along with Japan's first domestic in-flight Wi-Fi service. Meanwhile, their international on-board Wi-Fi branded 'Sky Wi-Fi', which until now has only been offered on B777-300ERs, will be expanded to B777-200ERs, B767-300ERs, as well as B787s. Panasonic Avionics is powering the service with their eXConnect product (domestic Wi-Fi will be provided by Gogo), and tests revealed there aren't issues with the composite-built Dreamliner.

Archrival All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) only introduced limited Wi-Fi on some international aircraft just recently (ANA to offer in-flight Wi-Fi for international from March.), and has been repeatedly talking of technical difficulties, including issues providing the service on Dreamliners. JAL is taking the lead here, but again, ANA will likely complain about JAL's cost advantages gained during their government-led bankruptcy protection.

Source: Japan Airlines, March 27th. (PDF; in Japanese)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring Airlines Japan to launch services on June 27th.

On March 25th, Spring Airlines Japan (IJ/SJO) announced that they will commence operations on June 27th. The Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA)-based LCC's initial destinations are Hiroshima (HIJ/RJOA), Saga (HSG/RJFS), and Takamatsu (TAK/RJOT), and will start with two daily round-trips to each city utilizing a fleet of three Boeing 737-800s. Tickets will go on sale on April 8th at 1200 JST.
Spring Airlines Japan's crew pose in front of their brand-new Boeing 737-800. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Flight schedule:
Narita - Hiroshima new 2 daily with 73H.
IJ621 NRT 0655 0835 HIJ 73H Daily
IJ623 NRT 1625 1805 HIJ 73H Daily
IJ622 HIJ 0920 1050 NRT 73H Daily
IJ624 HIJ 1850 2020 NRT 73H Daily

Narita - Saga new 2 daily with 73H.
IJ601 NRT 1055 1255 HSG 73H Daily
IJ603 NRT 1655 1855 HSG 73H Daily
IJ602 HSG 1340 1525 NRT 73H Daily
IJ604 HSG 1940 2125 NRT 73H Daily

Narita - Takamatsu new 2 daily with 73H.
IJ611 NRT 0630 0755 TAK 73H Daily
IJ613 NRT 1150 1315 TAK 73H Daily
IJ612 TAK 0840 0955 NRT 73H Daily
IJ614 TAK 1410 1525 NRT 73H Daily

From Narita, fares to Hiroshima will start at 5,690 JPY, to Saga from 5,700 JPY, and to Takamatsu from 5,630 JPY. Its highest fare for each route has been set at around 25,000 JPY, but the airline says that price is for 'government paperwork purposes', and in reality they don't intend to offer that fare. Competitor Jetstar Japan (GK/JJP) already serves the Narita - Takamatsu market twice daily offering fares as low as 3,990 JPY, but Spring Airlines Group Chairman Wang Zhenghua emphasizes they "don't want to get into a fare war".

Meanwhile, Japan's largest travel agency JTB has agreed to purchase up to 5% of Spring Airlines Japan's shares, a move which the tour firm denies as a foray into the LCC business, but instead "an investment to secure seats for package tours in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics", according to JTB President and CEO Hiromi Tagawa. Spring Airines Japan becomes only the third airline JTB has invested in, after Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) and All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA). "ANA and JAL's modest capacity expansion will be insufficient to meet the booming travel needs", Mr. Tagawa adds.

The airline's biggest shareholder, Shanghai/Pudong (PVG/ZSPD)-based Spring Airlines (9C/CQH), which controls the maximum possible figure under Japan's foreign ownership rules at 33%, already serves Ibaraki (IBR/RJAH), Osaka/Kansai (KIX/RJBB), Saga, and Takamatsu, and the Japanese affiliate hopes to attract Chinese tourists traveling to multiple destinations in Japan, as well as leverage brand recognition in cities the minority-parent already serves.

Spring Airlines Japan plans to add two more B737s this year, and five each from 2015, increasing its fleet to 20 by the end of 2017.

Source: Spring Airlines Japan, March 25th. (in Japanese) 
Source: Aviation Wire, March 25th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, March 25th. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

J-Air takes delivery of 15th Embraer E170.

On March 20th, J-Air (XM/JLJ) took delivery of Embraer ERJ170-100STD (E170) JA225J new from the Brazilian manufacturer. It arrived at the airline's Osaka/Itami (ITM/RJOO) hub on March 24th, local time.
Sister Embraer ERJ170-100STD (E170) JA223J arrives at Hanamaki with the beautiful mountains of Towada-Hachimantai in the background. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

This is the 15th and as of now the final E170 (no more order backlog) to be delivered to the JAL Group. The regional arm of Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) is restarting some domestic routes previously flown by mainline (JAL to resume six domestic routes for Summer 2014.), and the E-Jet has become the backbone of their fleet. J-Air also flies nine Canadair CL-600-2B19 200ERs (CRJ200ERs).

Now virtually, JAL has organized its operations in a way that sees most of the regional routes from Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) being operated by lower-cost subsidiary JAL Express (JC/JEX) with Boeing 737-800s and those from Itami being flown by J-Air with E-Jets and CRJs, while mainline JAL is limited to a handful of trunk routes connecting major cities and some high-demand regional routes.

Source: FlyTeam, March 23rd. (in Japanese)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Miniskirt turbulence at Skymark Airlines?

On March 20th, Skymark Airlines (BC/SKY) dismissed claims by the Japan Federation of Cabin Attendants, which is part of the Japan Federation of Aviation Worker's Union, that the new one-piece short-skirt uniforms pose a threat to safety and could also make the flight attendants victims of sexual harassment. The controversial 1960s-style uniform, which barely covers the wearer's thighs, will be worn by flight attendants on the Airbus A330 for the first six months on each route it is introduced on, starting with the Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) - Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF) route on May 31st.
President and CEO Shinichi Nishikubo and flight attendants with miniskirt uniforms posing in front of their brand-new Airbus A330. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

"Article 73-3 of the Civil Aeronautics Act states ‘prohibition of safety-impeding acts,’ which includes sexual harassment. The duties of cabin attendants are to prevent these incidents beforehand, but we are concerned that the design of the uniform might induce such disturbing acts. Moreover, the airline is treating women as products, as it is advertising that this uniform will attract customers. We have to doubt the morality of the company", the Japan Federation of Cabin Attendants said in a letter submitted to Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) and Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) on February 25th.

Skymark says that the uniform was "designed with passenger and staff safety in mind", and that though they had received a question regarding the matter, it had not received any official complaints. They also denied any letters from the MLIT and MHLW as well, and added that none of their flight attendants belonged to the Japan Federation of Cabin Attendants. Skymark reiterates that only those who volunteer to wear the uniform will do so, and will not impose anything on those who refuse to wear. After six months, the flight attendants will revert to the normal uniform.

However, President and CEO Shinichi Nishikubo admits that the uniform "has attracted an overwhelming amount of attention", adding "we want everyone to take a closer look at the new comfortable seats and try it". Japan's third largest domestic carrier is configuring its new A330-300s in an all-premium (akin to premium economy) seven-abreast (2-3-2) 271-seat layout. A total of 10 are planned by September 2015. After Fukuoka, it will be introduced on the Haneda - Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) route in September, followed by Haneda - Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) in late January 2015.

Source: Japan Times, March 10th. (in English)
Source: Aviation Wire, March 21st. (in Japanese)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring Airlines Japan starts test flights to Saga.

In preparation for service launch in late May, Spring Airlines Japan (IJ/SJO) began operating test flights from Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) to Saga (HSG/RJFS) on March 17th as it would in normal operations. Staff in the air and on the ground checked routine procedures from departure to arrival. 
Boeing 737-86N(WL) JA02GR is leased from GECAS. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Training flights to Hiroshima (HIJ/RJOA) and Takamatsu (TAK/RJOT) are already being flown, and Saga would be the last of the three cities the new LCC initially plans to serve twice daily, respectively, from the time of commencing operations, to receive these familiarization flights. Chinese LCC Spring Airlines (9C/CQH), which owns 33% of their shares, already serves Saga and Takamatsu from Shanghai/Pudong (PVG/ZSPD), and the Japanese affiliate hopes to leverage brand recognition.

Spring Airlines Japan's Boeing 737-800s seat 189 in a six-abreast (3-3) configuration, of which 18 (first three rows) in the front would be sold as premium seats with more legroom. The airline's fleet currently stands at two with a third coming on-line by May, and will be expanded to 20 by the end of 2017.

Source: Saga Prefecture, March 14th. (in Japanese)
Source: Saga Shimbun, March 17th. (in Japanese)

Friday, March 21, 2014

JAL receives 14th Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) has taken delivery of its 14th Dreamliner: Boeing 787-8 JA831J. The aircraft departed Paine Field (PAE/KPAE) at 1643 PDT on March 18th as flight JL8101, and arrived at Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) at 1829 JST on March 19th.
Sister Boeing 787-8 JA822J takes off from Narita. (Aviation Wire)

JAL configures its General Electric GEnx-1B-powered B787-8s with 42 business class and 144 economy class seats. Although newer international-configured B767-300ERs are receiving new Sky Suite interiors (JAL adding more Sky Suite destinations.) and blended winglets, Dreamliners will gradually supercede older machines, which in turn will replace the oldest domestic B767-300s after conversion to domestic configuration.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

FDA plans charters to Aomori, Hokkaido, and Okinawa.

Fuji Dream Airlines (JH/FDA) is planning various charter flights to Aomori, Hokkaido, and Okinawa from its hubs at Nagoya/Komaki (NKM/RJNA) and Shizuoka (FSZ/RJNS) this upcoming summer.
Embraer ERJ170-100STD (E170) JA01FJ 'Dream Red' arriving at Fukuoka. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

FDA will fly a round-trip flight between Shizuoka and Aomori (AOJ/RJSA) on April 26th, 28th, and May 2nd as part of Hankyu Travel International's package tour to see Hirosaki's Sakura (cherry blossom) Festival in Aomori during 'Golden Week'. The airline already operates two daily scheduled round-trips between Komaki and Aomori, which will be increased to three from July 1st (Fuji Dream Airlines' Summer 2014 changes.).

To Okinawa prefecture in southern Japan, Fuji Dream will fly to Miyako (MMY/ROMY) from Komaki on April 27th on behalf of Japan's largest travel agency JTB, and from Shizuoka on May 1st, 3rd, and 6th on behalf of tour firm Tabix.

From June 28th to September 20th, FDA will fly a weekly single round-trip between Komaki and Sapporo/Okadama (OKD/RJCO), the downtown airport of the Hokkaido capital, on Saturdays using Embraer ERJ170-100s (E170). Plans are also underway to operate up to 98 charter flights to and from Wakkanai (WKJ/RJCW) at the northernmost tip of Hokkaido from Komaki, Matsumoto (MMJ/RJAF), Niigata (KIJ/RJSN), and Shizuoka between June 13th and August 18th. 

FDA currently operates five ERJ170-200s (E175) and three ERJ170-100s (E170), and its eighth aircraft was only delivered (Fuji Dream Airlines receives eighth E-Jet 'Tea Green'.) roughly two weeks ago. The company's mission has been 'bridging communities to promote exchanges in people, products, economy, and culture'. 

Source: Hokkaido Shimbun, March 12th. (in Japanese)
Source: Miyako Mainichi Shimbun, March 13th. (in Japanese)
Source: FlyTeam, March 18th. (in Japanese)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

ANA Boeing 747 flies Sayonara and Kumamoto charters.

On March 16th, All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA), which is retiring the Boeing 747-400D on March 31st, operated 'Sayonara Flight Charter' and 'Kumamoto Scenic Flight' (ANA releases Boeing 747 Kumamoto charter schedule.) with the type. It is part of the airline's 'Final 747: Thanks Jumbo!' series of events commemorating the retirement of Boeing's Jumbo Jet.
Boeing 747-481/D JA8961 at Narita before departure. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

B747-481/D JA8961, the last remaining 'Queen of the Skies' with ANA, flew the event, which started off with flight NH2001 'Sayonara Flight Charter' from Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA) to Kumamoto (KMJ/RJFT). After photograph opportunities from the apron at Narita, 524 participants, 13 cabin crew, and two cockpit crew boarded the aircraft for a 0941 departure. It took off from Runway 16R at 1006. All passengers were served a B747-decorated 'bento box' (lunch box) along with memorabilia by flight attendants wearing classic ANA uniforms from the past. On passing Mount Fuji, the crew lowered the altitude to 26,000 feet (7,900 meters) to provide good photo opportunities, and on the screens during the flight were B747 flight simulator takeoffs and landings recorded by the crew. NH2001 touched down at Kumamoto's Runway 25 at 1138 and arrived at the parking spot at 1143.
Back to the past: ANA's flight attendants wearing classic uniforms from past eras. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

After arrival, passengers were offered a chance to photograph the aircraft and flight attendants, and the two pilots told memories and stories of the 'Jumbo Jet'. After that, JA8961 flew NH2014, dubbed 'Kumamoto Scenic Flight' above Kyushu, which returned to the same airport. Due to time constraints, participants could only choose one of either NH2001/2002 or NH2014. Again on the flight, passengers were handed out memorabilia along with ample photograph opportunities. After arriving back at Kumamoto and offloading its passengers, JA8961 took off again to perform a touch-and-go.
A photo on ANA's 'Final 747: Thanks Jumbo!' website. (Image: ANA)

NH2002, the return leg of 'Sayonara Flight Charter' departed Kumamoto at 1850 and took off from Runway 25 at 1858. After cruising at 39,000 feet (11,900 meters), the aircraft made an autopilot touchdown on Narita's Runway 34L at 2018, and reached the gate at 2025.

This finishes the domestic series of events paying tribute to Boeing's 'Queen of the Skies', and only leaves the last revenue flight on March 31st, planned to be NH126 from Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) to Haneda. It will also make one last visit to Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF) on flights NH243/250 and Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) on flights NH069/074 on March 30th (ANA loads final Boeing 747 revenue flights.). The final part of 'Final 747: Thanks Jumbo!' will be taking participants to Tupelo (TUP/KTUP) (ANA announes final Boeing 747 farewell tour.) to see JA8961 arrive at the aircraft's final resting place in Mississippi, U.S.A. on April 17th.

Source: Aviation Wire, March 16th. (in Japanese)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

More older Boeings retired from ANA and JAL.

All Nippon Airways' (NH/ANA) Boeing 767-381 JA8289 was ferried to the U.S.A. for part out. The aircraft departed Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) on March 14th at 2321 as flight NH9432, arriving at Anchorage (ANC/PANC) at 1017, local time. It departed the following day on March 15th at 0319 and arrived at Tucson (TUS/KTUS) at 0913. It was delivered new to ANA back on September 18th, 1989.
Boeing 767-381 JA8289 taxiing at Naha in November 2013. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

ANA also retired B747-481/D JA8960 after deploying it on flight NH136 Naha/Okinawa (OKA/ROAH) - Haneda on March 14th. It will undergo final maintenance checks before being ferried to Tupelo (TUP/KTUP) in Mississippi, U.S.A. to be dismantled by Universal Asset Management. JA8960 was delivered on May 11th, 1993. This leaves ANA with one final B747 operating: JA8961. The 'Jumbo Jet' will see its last day of operations with ANA on March 31st.
Boeing 747-481/D JA8960 making the type's last visit to Hakodate on October 27th, 2013. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Meanwhile, Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) retired Boeing 767-346 JA8264, after operating flight JL090 from Seoul/Gimpo (GMP/RKSS) to Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT). This is the last of the original 232-seat (30 business, 202 economy) B767s which were deployed on both domestic and regional international routes (mostly to South Korea). Delivered to JAL back on September 21st, 1987, this aircraft which spent its entire 26 years with the JAL will now be exported to Thailand, probably to Orient Thai Airlines (OX/OXO). This standardizes JAL's domestic B767s to a single configuration seating 261 (42 Class J business, 219 economy).
232-seat sister Boeing 767-346 JA8266 seen at Aomori in June 2013. It was retired three months later. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Later this month, JAL will also retire its first B777-246, JA8981, which will become the first 'Triple-Seven' to be phased out from Japan.