Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Japan Airlines to decide on future widebody orders

Japan Airlines (JAL) intends to order more wide-body aircraft to meet its growth objectives, although a decision about which type could be some way off.

The carrier is discussing its wide-body needs, but has not yet reached any internal agreement, said Hideki Oshima, JAL’s executive officer for international relations and alliances. An order probably would not be placed until sometime in 2018 or 2019, Oshima told ATW’s sister publication Aviation Daily recently.

The first decision facing JAL is whether to exercise its 25 existing options on Airbus A350s, Oshima noted. The carrier will assess whether to take any of these, and it is also “studying other types of aircraft,” he said. Boeing’s proposed new mid-sized aircraft project and the 787-10 could be among the options it considers.

JAL already has 31 A350s on firm order, comprising both the -900 and -1000 variants. The first of these aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 2019. It also has 10 more of its 787-9 orders remaining to be delivered.

The prospect of additional fleet expansion is partly spurred by the Japanese government’s plan to add more slots at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport by 2020. It is holding discussions with various groups regarding airspace changes that would allow more flights at Haneda.

JAL will need to assess how many new slots will be available, and what markets would be best suited to new or additional service. This will help determine what sort of aircraft types it should add, Oshima said.

The carrier is also looking to expand its reach via partnerships with other airlines. This year it has signed new codeshare deals with carriers such as Vietnam-based Vietjet, Delhi-based Vistara, Aeromexico and Hawaiian Airlines.

Oshima stressed that JAL has no problem looking outside the oneworld alliance for partners, as long as it does not affect existing relationships with alliance members. The carrier may look for more partners in Asia, Oshima said.

JAL’s latest agreement is with Hawaiian Airlines, with the US carrier switching from previous Japanese partner All Nippon Airways (ANA). In addition to an initial codeshare agreement, the two airlines intend to apply for antitrust immunity to establish a joint venture.

Oshima said JAL and Hawaiian are preparing their joint venture (JV) proposal, and they hope to submit it to regulators soon after JAL’s fiscal year begins in April. It could take 3-4 months for both governments to decide on the applications, Oshima said.

A JV with Hawaiian will allow the carriers to align their schedules in the important Japan-Hawaii market. It would also enable the airlines to adjust their capacity in response to demand shifts. Oshima said JAL is hoping to establish the JV as a revenue-sharing arrangement.

JAL is working on network plans for the next fiscal year, and aims to announce these in February, Oshima said. He noted that any new Tokyo routes would likely be launched from Tokyo Narita Airport, as Haneda is essentially full. Other Japanese cities such as Nagoya or Osaka could also be options for expansion.

(Adrian Schofield - Aviation Daily / ATWOnline News)

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