Mar 07, 2016

    ANA on track to fly past JAL in foreign dogfight

    ALL Nippon Airways (ANA) - which marked on Thursday 30 years since it launched regular international flights - is expected to surpass Japan Airlines (JAL) in terms of overseas flight passenger numbers for fiscal 2015.

    ANA has been in good shape due to efforts to improve its in-flight services but it struggled hard for several years after launching its first international flight in 1986.

    "What an effort we've made so far without being discouraged," ANA president Osamu Shinobe said during an event at Narita Airport to mark the 30th anniversary.

    Before 1986, the government granted JAL a monopoly on international flights. A partial change in policy allowed ANA to launch its first overseas flight, linking Narita and Guam, something that had been a long-held ambition since its start in 1952.

    ANA struggled initially because unfamiliarity with international operations brought low service ratings. It reached a turning point in 1999 when it joined Star Alliance, a global alliance, acquiring expertise from Lufthansa of Germany and United Airlines of the United States.

    ANA has now received the top rating four years in a row from a British company that assesses the airline industry.

    It is the only Japanese airline to get this ranking.

    Following the policy change that allowed competition in the internal market, ANA's international flights finally entered the black in fiscal 2004.

    Its international network has expanded to 39 cities.

    The number of international flight passengers for fiscal 2015 is expected to reach 8.2 million, surpassing JAL's 8.09 million. In addition to routes to Houston and three other overseas cities that went into service in fiscal 2015, ANA will also fly to Wuhan, China, Phnom Penh and Mexico City in fiscal 2016.

    How JAL will counter, meanwhile, has become a focus of attention.

    JAL filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and drastically cut its international flight routes.

    Having been rehabilitated through public support, it is restricted by the government from opening new routes until the end of fiscal 2016.