JAL may use 787s to fly to Madrid, Berlin after Boston debut

by Chris Cooper and Kiyotaka Matsuda

Bloomberg

Japan Airlines Co., which began Boston services Sunday with its new Boeing Co. 787, may also use the fuel-efficient plane on routes to Spain and Germany as it bolsters services to smaller cities.

The airline is considering flights to Madrid, Berlin and Dusseldorf, which are hubs for partners Iberia Lineas Aereas de Espana SA and Air Berlin Plc, Kiyoto Morioka, vice president, network planning, said in an interview Friday at the company’s Tokyo headquarters. The planes may also be used to boost services to New York and London, he said.

Japan Air received its first two 787s last month and two more will arrive “very soon,” Morioka said. The carrier, the second to use the plane after All Nippon Airways Co., has ordered a total of 45 Dreamliners to help increase international capacity by 25 percent over the next five years.

“The 787 is very suitable and the right-sized aircraft for these medium-sized destinations,” Morioka said. “We expect much more traffic, not only from Tokyo, but from Asia via Tokyo to the U.S., and vice versa.”

The 787, with 186 seats, departed Narita airport at 11:46 a.m. Sunday for the nearly 13-hour flight to Boston’s Logan International Airport, according to the carrier.

The first flight to Boston was fully booked, while the carrier has reservations for about 98 percent of seats this month and about 90 percent for May, Morioka said. The airline will also add flights beginning in December to San Diego. Until now, there’s been no direct service to either city from Asia, Morioka said.

JAL, which started a venture for Pacific flights with AMR Corp.’s American Airlines last year, is adding the U.S. flights to complement American Airlines’ hubs in Dallas and Chicago, Morioka said. The Tokyo-Boston service will cut round- trip travel time by as much as six hours, according to JAL.

The carrier, which expects to get 29 Dreamliners by the end of March 2017, also plans to use the planes for a new service to Helsinki. The aircraft will also replace 777s and 767s on flights to Moscow, New Delhi and Singapore.

The airline applied to form a partnership on Japan-Europe routes with British Airways in February that would allow them to share revenue, coordinate schedules and potentially add new services.

British Airways may consider taking a stake in JAL, which is planning an initial public offering as early as September, Willie Walsh, chief executive officer of parent International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, said last month.

The Asian carrier is also considering using the 787 for routes from Nagoya and Osaka’s Kansai airports that weren’t profitable with larger Boeing 777 planes, Morioka said. Osaka-London and Nagoya-Paris services were halted a couple of years ago because of low passenger loads and losses, he said. A 777-300 carries 368 passengers in a typical three-class layout, according to Boeing’s website.

JAL is also “seriously considering” ordering regional jets from Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp., which could be used for short-haul flights from Osaka’s Itami airport, Morioka said. He didn’t comment on the time frame for a decision or which other regional jets the carrier was considering.

ANA has ordered 15 Mitsubishi Regional Jets, and taken 10 options. Deliveries of the aircraft, which will be fitted with 70 or 90 seats, are due to start in 2014 at the earliest.

The 787, the first composite-plastic passenger jet, will help JAL achieve a goal of saving ¥50 billion ($615 million) in costs in the next five years, the airline said in February. Morioka declined to say how much the new aircraft would save in fuel costs for the company.

All Nippon predicts fuel savings of ¥10 billion a year when it gets all 55 of the 787s it has on order.