With Japan's two leading airlines – All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines – having about half of the world's 787 deliveries and being based in Tokyo, Japan's capital has become the most affected city by the grounding of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. ANA and JAL operate out of Tokyo Haneda and Tokyo Narita, and it is Haneda airport alone that has seen the widest impact as there are 229 weekly 787 frequencies, more than four times the next largest 787 airport, Delhi. Tokyo Narita sees the third most number of 787 services with 35 weekly flights.
Yet Japan's carriers, and ANA especially, should be best equipped to mitigate the grounding. Schedules have slack and system load factors are low, at around 60-70%.
A political dispute between China and Japan has seen capacity on bilateral routes fall by over 20%, giving further wiggle room in schedules. One saving grace of this incident, provided it is resolved soon, is that this is the low season for travel. That is not to say airlines will not face challenges – or find the situation acceptable. But, for airports, there is an unavoidable loss of revenues, as these airlines reduce their 787 services.
ANA and JAL have different strategies for 787 network planning
Through 31-Dec-2012 Boeing had delivered 49 787s, about half to ANA and JAL, making the two the 787's largest in-service customers so far. Hence the substantial impact on Haneda in particular. But the two airlines have taken different approaches to deploying their 787s.
ANA is using the 787 as primarily a domestic aircraft, hence the high frequencies out of Tokyo Haneda airport, the city's downtown and more convenient airport for short-haul operations. ANA does, however, have long-haul international services, the first point of which was Frankfurt and most recently (mere days before the 787's grounding) San Jose in California.
JAL uses its 787 aircraft internationally, most notably to open a service to Boston. In Feb-2013 JAL is also due to open a new service to Helsinki.
See related articles:
- Boeing Dreamliner delivery to ANA begins Asia Pacific's 787 dominance
- Beijing and Frankfurt to be first 787 destinations for ANA
- JAL continues low-density 787 configuration trend with plan for 186 seats
- JAL's new 787 Dreamliner routes to Mosow and New Delhi allow it to trim capacity on thin flights
787 deliveries: through 31-Dec-2012
Weekly 787 frequencies: Jan-2013
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Japanese airlines' low efficiency levels limit the consumer impact of 787 groundings
This difference in network strategy is reflected in technical characteristics: ANA has selected the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 powerplant for its 787s while JAL has selected the GEnx. ANA reckons the Trent 1000 is a better fit for mainly short-haul services.
Japanese aviation is however not always efficient by global standards. Costs are bloated, utilisation is low (domestic widebodies sit on the ground for many hours a day) and load factors are unimpressive: from 01-Apr-2012 through 31-Dec-2012 ANA's domestic load factor averaged 62.5%.
High 60% load factors over the popular summer travelling season offset the 58.7% recorded in Dec-2012 and lower figures earlier in the year. Likewise, JAL's load factor in the same period was 64.1%. Combined with spare aircraft being available, ANA could consolidate domestic operations to make up the 787's grounding.
International services are more of a challenge. But through relatively straight-forward (but as always in airline operations, complicated) aircraft shifting, larger aircraft should be freed up for the expanded long-haul networks Japan's carriers are forming to boost profitability as short-haul networks come under pressure from LCCs.
But other airports and airlines will be hoping for resolution of the 787 issues
Some airports and airlines will be more disproportionately affected by the 787 groundings. In Japan, smaller regional airports had been beneficiaries of the consumer-attractive aircraft. Points such as Ube Yamaguchi, Takamatsu, Kumamoto, Matsuyama, and Miyazaki each lose two, three or four daily frequencies with the 787.
Airlines like Ethiopian Airlines and Air India, which plan significant strategies around the aircraft's route capabilities, along with their home airport hubs, at Addis Ababa and New Delhi respectively, will also be more proportionately impacted.