Middle East airlines cash in on JAL's loss

JAL filed for bankruptcy protection last month in one of Japan's biggest corporate failures. (AFP)

The Japan Airlines' (JAL) bankruptcy seems to have opened more avenues for the airlines in the Middle East which are ready to expand on their Japan routes this year.

While Etihad Airways last week put the Japan route on its network map for the first time this year with flights to Nagoya, Emirates and Qatar Airways are getting ready to launch their second Japanese route – Tokyo – this year. Both the carriers already operate flights to Osaka. While Qatar Airways launched Osaka route five years ago, Emirates has been flying to the destination since 2002.

Japan's national carrier JAL filed for bankruptcy protection last month, in one of the country's biggest corporate failures, with Y2.32 trillion (Dh95.5 billion) in liabilities. JAL also said last week it would cut international and domestic routes, including eight flights on routes from Tokyo to New York-Sao Paulo and Shanghai, besides nine other routes inside Japan.

Asked how Emirates could benefit from JAL's bankruptcy, Richard Jewsbury, Emirates' Senior Vice-President Commercial Operations for the Far East and Australasia, told Emirates Business: "We wish the JAL team the very best for the future and hope they are able to successfully address the challenges ahead. Japan Airlines is a longstanding partner. We have a code share agreement with JAL on our existing Osaka daily service. This partnership will be expanded to include a code share on the new Dubai-Tokyo-Dubai service. We have no intentions of cancelling the code share agreement as it delivers significant value to both Emirates and JAL."

At the same time, the Dubai carrier, due to launch its Tokyo operations starting March 28, 2010, with five- times-a-week frequency, hopes to be able to "further increase frequencies to Tokyo in future in order to meet demand to Japan, an important business and tourism destination", according to Jewsbury.

"Given the high business demand for our services between Dubai and Japan, together with our ongoing advertising spend on promoting Japan as a tourist destination, we are anticipating more than 80 per cent load factors on our Tokyo service in the first year," he said.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways, which will initially fly four times a week to Nagoya via Beijing, will increase services to five flights a week from March 29, operating two-class Airbus A330 aircraft on the route. The airline would also expand its Japan operations with the launch of Abu Dhabi-Tokyo services on March 27.

Describing Etihad's new services to Japan, as "very important", James Hogan, Etihad Airways' Chief Executive Officer, said: "We believe the connection between Abu Dhabi and Nagoya will offer opportunities to grow tourism, as well as foster commercial growth and benefit key industries – particularly energy, environmental services and manufacturing, for which Nagoya is becoming a centre of excellence."

 

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