Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Airlines eye scenic flights to cover losses amid pandemic in Japan

Sep 25. 2020
Passengers board an Airbus A380 at Narita Airport for a scenic flight on Sunday. (The Yomiuri Shimbun)
Passengers board an Airbus A380 at Narita Airport for a scenic flight on Sunday. (The Yomiuri Shimbun)
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By The Japan News/ANN

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and with the spread of the novel coronavirus causing a dive in the use of passenger planes, major airlines are focusing on “scenic flights,” by utilizing planes that are not in service.

In what seems to be a vain effort to make up for the loss of revenue caused by the drop in flights, the concept is gaining popularity and tickets are selling out.

The world’s largest double-decker Airbus, the A380, which is also known as a “flying hotel,” normally operates on flights to Hawaii. However, due to low demand, the Hawaii route is currently out of service and the plane has not been used.

In its second attempt following one in August, All Nippon Airways (ANA) flew the A380 on a 90-minute scenic flight over Mt. Fuji, Nagoya and Miyakejima island, then back to Narita, on the Sunday of the four-day weekend. Both flights of about 350 seats, including economy class (from ¥14,000) and first class (¥50,000) were sold out. A 39-year-old office worker from Wakayama City said, “I rarely have the opportunity to fly on the A380. Even with the coronavirus crisis, my spirits will be lifted.”

Japan Airlines (JAL) will also begin operating flight tours — which have already sold out — on Saturday that will depart Narita Airport in the evening to enjoy a three-and-a-half-hour tour of the country’s starry skies and night scenery.

Jetstar Japan, a low-cost carrier (LCC) based in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, will operate in cooperation with Air Charter Japan, a Tokyo-based company that organizes charter flights, among other businesses. The company will offer tours in October for junior high and high school students to experience the work of pilots and flight attendants on board the aircraft.

Profits from such flights are limited for airlines. However, aircraft need to be flown on a regular basis for maintenance and other reasons, and the major ariliners will make use of the opportunity to fly on these excursions. Prof. Hajime Tozaki of J.F. Oberlin University analyzes that “there will be competition in the development of scenic flight services and this could become a promising market in the airline industry.”

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