Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) has revealed that it will utilise the first of its Airbus A380 fleet on its most popular leisure route, from Tokyo to Honolulu. We first hinted at Routesonline of this planned deployment of the aircraft back in January 2016 when we first learned of suggestions that ANA would introduce the type to its fleet.
Flights between Japan and Hawaii represent a highly competitive market - around 1.5 million Japanese travel to Hawaii annually, with airlines enjoying consistently high load factors. ANA’s use of the Superjumbo on this route shows it is seeking to increase significantly its share of this lucrative market. It has even unveiled a colouful special livery for its first aircraft featuring the Hawaiian green sea turtle – a symbol of good luck and prosperity in Hawaii.
ANA’s parent company ANA Holdings placed a firm order for three A380s in the second half of January 2016 and will become the first Japanese airline to operate the type when the first aircraft arrives in 2019. This commitment is understood to be linked to ANA Holdings’ successful sponsorship of a rescue bid for fellow Japanese carrier Skymark Airlines. The latter had an outstanding commitment for the A380 and Airbus was among its largest creditors with a sizeable voice in deciding a rescue package for the airline.
Hawaii is a major leisure market for Japanese tourists and ANA already offers three flights a day to Honolulu from the Japanese capital – two from Narita International Airport and one from Haneda International Airport. These are currently operated using Boeing 767-300ER equipment (the Haneda service will switch to a 787 between April and October 2016) and the Narita flights could easily be consolidated into single daily operation using a larger A380.
ANA’s share of the lucrative Hawaiian market out of Japan is estimated at around 20 per cent, trailing the market leader Japan Airlines which claims about 35 per cent of the market.
While ANA has revealed exactly what the outside of its first A380 will look like, we still are not aware of its planned internal configuration. With only three A380s on order, ANA will want to maintain a standard configuration for the fleet, but with strong leisure demand into Hawaii, it would suggest it could select a dense seating arrangement. This could perhaps be similar to that being offered by Emirates Airline with its new 617-seat two-class option, or even offering additional Economy seating to meet the passenger demographic in this market.
According to schedule data from OAG, the Tokyo – Honolulu city pair market can be served on a daily basis with just a single aircraft with a seven hour block time from Japan and nine-and-half hour return flight from Hawaii. This means that ANA will certainly be considering other markets for the A380 and this could drive its final decision on its seating configuration.
There are currently seven airlines offering scheduled flights between Japan and Hawaii, with AirAsia X also introducing its own long-haul low-cost operation between Osaka and Honolulu from June 2017 as an extension of its flights from its Kuala Lumpur base. All of these flights operate into Honolulu International Airport in the capital and largest city of the US state on the island of Oahu with the exception of a new link between Tokyo Haneda and Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport Hawaii’s Western island that was launched in December 2016.
The largest competition is on the Tokyo Narita – Honolulu link, where ANA will deploy its first A380. Alongside the Japanese carrier, this market is flown by China Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines, Korean Air and United Airlines. This market accounted for 53.2 per cent of the total seats between Japan and Hawaii last year, up from 51.0 per cent in 2015. This share is forecasted to grow almost one percentage point in 2017, based on published schedules.
Total non-stop capacity between japan and Hawaii grew a modest 0.4 per cent in 2016, but is expected to increase by 13.1 per cent in 2017 according to published schedules from intelligence provider OAG. This will return non-stop one-way capacity beyond the two million seat milestone for the first time since a ten–year high in 2013. In the subsequent two years capacity declined before returning to growth in 2016.
ANA selected the special ‘Flying Honu’ A380 design from among 2,197 submissions from around the world, which were received by ANA during an open design contest conducted in the final quarter of 2016. An in-house selection committee awarded the grand prize to Chihiro Masuoka of Tokyo, for his concept ‘Sea Turtle Family’ featuring the Hawaiian green sea turtle.
Known as ‘Honu’ in the Hawaiian language, the green sea turtle is considered a sacred creature, and is widely loved by the people of Hawaii. ANA Group says it will also be supporting activities in Hawaii to protect the Hawaiian green sea turtle, which is listed by The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a wild animal in danger of extinction as part of this project.