Business / Corporate

ANA launches Tokyo to Honolulu service using Airbus A380, the world's biggest passenger jet

Kyodo

All Nippon Airways has launched Japan’s first commercial service employing an Airbus SAS A380, the world’s largest passenger plane, on its Narita to Honolulu route.

The 520-seat double-decker jet will initially make three round trips per week on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays departing from Narita airport, near Tokyo, with the number increasing to 10 round trips per week from July 1 after a second A380 starts operating in June, according to ANA. It made its first trip Friday.

The airline is planning to eventually operate three A380 aircraft. The plane, with a livery featuring Hawaiian Honu sea turtles, has “an overwhelming presence,” said ANA Holdings Inc. President and CEO Shinya Katanozaka.

The aircraft, 72.7 meters long and 24.1 meters high with a wingspan of 79.8 meters, is the first four-engine passenger jet introduced in Japan since the Boeing 747 jumbo jet. The A380 has twice as many seats as the Boeing 787s currently used on ANA’s cash-cow Honolulu routes.

“It is a complicated but well-made plane equipped with multiple safety systems. I hope passengers will feel (the atmosphere of) Hawaii on board,” said Osamu Furukawa, a 55-year-old ANA captain and pilot instructor.

ANA’s first A380 aircraft arrived at Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture from France on March 21, and the second one arrived earlier this month. The first one is called the Sky Blue Flying Honu and the second one is named the Emerald Green Flying Honu, based on the color of their exterior.

With the launch of the A380 service, ANA aims to increase its share of flights connecting Honolulu and its home market. It currently ranks third after Japan Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. The new aircraft features “COUCHii seats” that can be used as beds, a bar lounge and a room for changing clothes and breastfeeding.

In 2018, 1.57 million Japanese visited Hawaii by air, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Furukawa, who had prepared for the launch of the A380 service since 2016, said before the inaugural flight he felt the aircraft was “heavy.”

He and the other A380 pilots have previously flown the smaller A320. “Even though there are commonalities, we need to study a lot” about operation of the A380, Furukawa said. ANA began training flights for the A380 in April.

Generally, larger aircraft require longer runways for takeoffs and landings, and the A380 needs a runway of around 2,500 meters. That means only a limited number of airports can handle emergency landings of the aircraft during long-distance international flights.

The aircraft have been designed on a fail-safe principle: If one system fails another will take over so that safety is not jeopardized. The planes have backup computers, electrical and hydraulic systems, as well as multiple braking systems. When on the ground, the aircraft utilize a number of cameras to cover blind spots for pilots.

Singapore Airlines was the first carrier to begin commercial operation of an A380 in 2007 and there were about 230 in use by airlines around the world as of late April.

However, the European aircraft manufacturer said in February it will stop manufacturing the A380 due to slumping orders, with the last one scheduled to be delivered in 2021.

ANA Holdings chief Katanozaka said Airbus has assured the airline that its supply of aircraft components and backup services will not be affected, but industry sources have expressed concerns that it will become difficult to secure A380 parts in the long term.