All Nippon Airways Co. is promoting efforts to secure new cabin crew members, including foreign nationals, to deal with a staff shortage stemming from increased flights.
ANA has also taken steps to enhance the quality of its crews to improve the airline’s hospitality service ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“By combining our accumulated know-how and all sorts of ideas, we aim to be the No. 1 customer service provider in the global airline industry,” said Hitomi Yamamoto, head of ANA’s Inflight Services Center.
The air travel market is booming, fueled by an increase in business travelers and a boost in tourism from overseas.
The overall number of arrivals at airports across Japan surged 20 percent in the four years from fiscal 2011, coming in at 1.19 million in fiscal 2015, according to a survey by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
In the mid-1990s, following the collapse of the bubble economy, ANA and Japan Airlines Co. both stopped hiring flight attendants on a full-time basis and recruited only contract workers to reduce personnel expenses.
As competition with low-cost carriers intensified, ANA announced in 2013 that it would halt its contract recruitment and employ full-time flight attendants for the following fiscal year, with JAL later following suit.
For the latest fiscal year from April, ANA took on 774 full-time cabin attendants, more than twice JAL’s 370, bringing the total to 7,718. The figure compares with 5,670 in fiscal 2013 when ANA hired 327.
ANA created its Airline School in 2013 and has active crew and ground staff members teach there. The school also supports a short-term course at 27 universities in 13 prefectures across Japan.
Risa Seike, 24, who took the course and joined ANA in 2015, said, “It was good to study there because I was able to hear from active crew members about their in-flight experiences and I was also encouraged by my classmates.”
For fiscal 2017, the carrier employed 120 people from among those who finished the school program, in contrast with 30 in fiscal 2015.
ANA also organizes an in-house hospitality service contest among its cabin crew members in a bid to keep them motivated.
Last year’s winner among novices was Kraipit Lertsiriworaphong, a 26-year-old from Thailand.
“Japanese flight attendants can explore a different point of view and deepen understanding of their own culture by working with foreign colleagues,” an ANA official said. “They are a good stimulus for Japanese crew.”
To improve service quality for non-Japanese passengers, the carrier has appointed flight attendants in such countries as China, Poland and Spain as training instructors.
Among other steps, ANA is making an effort to reduce employee turnover, allowing its workers aged 30 or older to cut their regular working days by as much as half.