Airlines offer special New Year sunrise flights

Kyodo News

About 1,100 people watched the first sunrise of the year Friday on six special New Year flights arranged by three Japanese airlines, with passengers on some of the flights also getting a view of Mount Fuji.

Struggling Japan Airlines Corp., which is seeking a turnaround under state supervision, operated three of the flights, each departing from and landing back at Haneda airport in Tokyo, Narita airport east of the capital and Kansai airport in Osaka Prefecture, carrying a combined 750 people.

All Nippon Airways Co. had two flights — one from Haneda which also featured circling over Mount Fuji before returning to the airport and another leaving from and returning to Kansai airport. Star Flyer Inc. ran a short flight from Kitakyushu airport in Fukuoka Prefecture to see the sunrise from above the clouds.

Kazuya Gokita, a 27-year-old company employee from Tokyo who was on JAL’s New Year flight from Haneda, said, “It was the first time for me to see the first sunrise of the year from the sky, and I was inspired by the beautiful scenery. I want to do it again next year.”

Gokita was among 255 passengers on the near-capacity Boeing 767 midsize plane, which left Haneda airport at 5:50 a.m. and circled above a mountainous area in Yamanashi Prefecture when the sun came out to shine on Mount Fuji before returning to Haneda about two hours later.

Yoko Yamaguchi, 26, a crew member on the flight, said, “After watching the passengers smile, I renewed my pledge to carry on toward the company’s rehabilitation, also for the sake of our customers.”