ANA to use Dreamliner to tap overseas markets

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

All Nippon Airways Co. is targeting overseas customers as competition in the domestic market intensifies, the airline’s president, Shinichiro Ito, said Thursday.

At a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Ito said the arrival of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner will help ANA become Asia’s No. 1 carrier. ANA, which in 2004 became the first airline to order the Dreamliner from Boeing Co., last month became the first customer to receive the state-of-the-art aircraft, whose delivery was delayed by more than three years.

ANA’s recent establishment of two low-cost carriers, Peach Aviation Ltd. and AirAsia Japan Co., is also part of its efforts to land foreign customers, especially in Asia, a market that is considered to have rich potential, Ito said.

ANA is also recovering from the huge blow the March 11 disasters and the Fukushima nuclear crisis dealt to the nation’s travel industry, Ito said.

When asked for his opinion of the government’s Visit Japan campaign aimed at attracting more foreign tourists to the country, Ito said the promotion has not been effective.

“I think the government only recently started to focus on tourism. I believe (the government) lacks the experience necessary to promote Japan’s appeal (overseas),” he said. “We must work together to think of effective ways (to promote the country). As one of Japan’s airlines, I think we must play our part in such efforts.”

Ito’s news conference came as ANA is preparing for its maiden Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight on Oct. 26 between Tokyo’s Haneda airport and Hong Kong. ANA will become the first carrier to fly Boeing’s new fuel-efficient aircraft.

Ito said ANA covered Boeing’s delay in delivering the Dreamliner partly by extending the life of aircraft that were due to be retired. The airline is in the final stages of compensation negotiations with Boeing, but Ito declined to disclose any figures.

Despite the delay, Ito said the Dreamliner was well worth the wait and boasted of the comfort he experienced onboard the plane in September, when the new aircraft finally flew from Seattle to Tokyo.

The Boeing 787 is 20 percent more fuel efficient than standard aircraft, making it ideal for long-haul flights, Ito said. “It will play a huge role in our global strategy. We see big potential in expanding our services” to other routes that are unsuitable for smaller aircraft, he said.

ANA will from Nov. 1 start using the new aircraft commercially on routes from Haneda to Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures. The airline plans to start using the Dreamliner for long-haul flights in January, on its Tokyo to Frankfurt route. ANA is expected to receive a total of 55 of the aircraft by the end of fiscal 2017.