TOKYO >> Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways are intensifying their competition over international routes linking Japan and Hawaii, a destination long popular with Japanese tourists.
As seat occupancy is high for these routes and the number of passengers is expected to increase, JAL has formed an alliance with Hawaiian Airlines to improve customer convenience. ANA plans to introduce superjumbo airliners to facilitate transportation in large numbers.
Currently, six major airlines, including JAL, ANA and Hawaiian, and two low-cost carriers operate flights on routes linking Japan and Hawaii, such as the Narita-Honolulu route.
JAL has a 32 percent market share in the Japan-Honolulu market, followed by Hawaiian at 22 percent and ANA at 14 percent, according to ANA. Among the three carriers, JAL has the most flights to Honolulu, and ANA has the fewest.
ANA plans to introduce three double-deck Airbus A380 superjumbo jets in the spring of 2019 for the Tokyo-Honolulu route, replacing mid-size Boeing 787-9s that have over 200 seats.
By introducing the world’s largest airliner with 520 seats, ANA aims to double its transportation capacity per flight.
ANA will be the first carrier in the nation to introduce a couch seat concept in economy class, launching it in the superjumbo jets. Each couch comprises three or four seats, and passengers are able to use the seats as a bed by lifting up the leg rests.
With the couch seats, ANA is seeking to fully accommodate passengers traveling with small children, enabling them to have a more relaxed experience in the cabin.
As many of the passengers are couples or families, ANA’s business class will also offer “pair seats” in which two seats are arranged so that two passengers can sit close to each other.
By responding to the widespread demand, ANA aims to increase its market share in the Japan-Honolulu routes to about 25 percent by 2020.
JAL, which uses mid-size planes for the Hawaii routes, signed a partnership with Hawaiian in March after ANA terminated its tie-up deal with the U.S. carrier.
As Hawaiian Airlines’ flights among Hawaiian islands became available for JAL passengers following the partnership, it has become easier for them to visit Kauai and other islands from Honolulu. JAL passengers also can use Hawaiian’s airport lounge, and earn JAL mileage points when taking Hawaiian flights.
JAL and ANA focus on these routes because Hawaii has always been a popular destination for Japanese travelers. According to ANA, the average passenger occupancy of Hawaii routes was 93 percent in 2017, compared to an average of about 76 percent for all international flights.
“Demand does not decline at any time of the year,” an ANA public relations official said. Should the number of seats increase, the number of passengers is highly likely to rise.
According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the number of Japanese people who visited Hawaii increased in 2017 by 5.4 percent from the previous year to 1.56 million visitors.