Japanese airlines expanding freight transport businesses

Courtesy of ANA holdings Inc.

A new cargo aircraft introduced by ANA Holdings Inc.

The Yomiuri ShimbunTwo major Japanese airlines are actively operating in the field of freight transportation. In August, Japan Airlines Co. resumed regular cargo flights for the first time in nine years, and ANA Holdings Inc. has introduced two cargo aircraft. Expectations are growing for air cargo, which is suitable for transporting expensive products such as electronic parts and pharmaceuticals.

In the meantime, however, trade friction between the United States and China has become a concern.

On Aug. 1, JAL launched scheduled cargo services between Narita Airport, near Tokyo, and Chicago. The codeshare flights are operated three times a week by Kalitta Air, a U.S. air cargo company. After JAL went bankrupt in 2010, the company relinquished its nine cargo planes. According to an informed source, it has chosen the option of joint operation with the U.S. company in order to reduce risk for their business.

ANA has introduced two large Boeing 777 F cargo planes. The 777 F has a cargo capacity of about 100 tons, twice that of conventional planes. Thus it is expected to transport items like large semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

Since July, ANA has been operating Boeing 777 F planes between Shanghai and two major Japanese airports — Narita and Kansai. According to an ANA official in charge of public relations, the new routes made a “satisfactory start” with roughly 70 percent cargo load factor. The company also plans to launch a route between Narita and Chicago in autumn using the same type of aircraft.

According to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, 4.13 million tons of international air cargo arrived and departed from Japan in fiscal 2017, about 1.2 times the amount in fiscal 2005.

These two Japanese airlines hope to capitalize on growing demand over the long term, with the view that air cargo between Asia and North America will continue to grow, mainly in the field of semiconductors.

However, the effects of trade friction between the United States and China cannot be ignored. Air transportation sales of Nippon Cargo Airlines Co., a dedicated air cargo flight operator that is a subsidiary of major Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, are beginning to drop.

“If the decline continues, reducing the number of flights could be an option,” said Shohei Yamamoto, managing corporate officer of Nippon Yusen. Each company needs to carefully assess risks for the time being. Speech

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