Japan Airlines faces much smaller impact of Boeing 787 grounding

by Devesh Agarwal

The impact of the month old grounding of their Boeing 787 Dreamliners on Japan Airlines (JAL) appears to much smaller when compared to fellow Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA). “We operated only six Dreamliners out of a fleet of 200 aircraft, so the total impact of the Dreamliner grounding on us is very small” JAL CEO Masaru Onishi told Bangalore Aviation on the sidelines of the Oneworld event to mark the entry of Malaysia Airlines in to the alliance, on January 31.

Onishi-san explained that JAL operated six Dreamliners to Boston, San Diego, Singapore and Moscow, keeping one aircraft spare, a much smaller number when compared to the 24 Dreamliners in the fleet of fellow Japanese carrier ANA.

Keeping in mind his airline’s focus on passenger convenience, he went on to say, that JAL had minimised disruptions by deploying Boeing 777s on the higher demand routes serviced by the 787, and 767s on the lower demand routes. JAL had also transferred some of its passengers on to fellow oneworld member American Airlines. While JAL did not transfer any passenger on to ANA, they did receive transferred passengers of ANA.

One route that was affected was Tokyo Narita – San Diego, which was specifically planned for 787 operations only. For JAL to operate the flight using 777s, the airline had to take specific certifications which take about three weeks. The airline has already commenced the certification process, but the San Diego flight is suspended till JAL completes the formalities and obtains the certification. [Editor’s note: This morning Japan Airlines announced that it was indefinitely delaying the launch of its Narita Helsinki route, scheduled to commence on February 25.]

On operating costs, Onishi san conceded that airline was taking a hit. “With [Boeing] 777s we achieve about 60% passenger load factor compared to 80%+ in the 787s.”

Onishi-san also appeared to be resigned to the fact, that the battery problem, which has resulted in the grounding of the global 787 fleet, is not going to be resolved any time soon. “We have had discussions with Boeing and they are doing their best to fix it [the problem], and we hope they do it within two months, but I cannot say for sure”.

When asked what will be Japan Airlines’ stand on compensation or their order book especially if the fix took longer than the anticipated two months, Onishi san refused to speculate, saying “Let us not focus on such issues right now. More important is the fix.”

Onishi-san also indicated that JAL is committed to its 787 orders.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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