Key Points:

  • Japan Airlines is set to receive two Airbus A350-1000s by the end of 2023 and five more in 2024, aiming to enhance its long-haul operations.

  • The airline plans to use the A350-1000s to replace its Boeing 777-300ERs and introduce new cabin products for a competitive edge.

  • Amidst macroeconomic influences, JAL notes a shift in outbound travel trends, with a stronger emphasis on short- to medium-haul trips.

Japan Airlines Enhances Long-Haul Fleet with Airbus A350-1000s

Japan Airlines (JAL) is on track to introduce two Airbus A350-1000 aircraft into its fleet before the end of 2023, marking a significant step in its long-haul fleet renewal. The move is part of a larger strategy to gain a competitive advantage in trans-Pacific operations. The airline, which has a total of 13 A350-1000s on order, will receive an additional five of these aircraft in 2024, as shared by Ross Leggett, the senior vice-president for route marketing at JAL. The new aircraft will gradually replace the airline's existing fleet of Boeing 777-300ERs.

Cabin Innovations and Delivery Timelines

JAL's executive vice-president, Shinichiro Shimizu, revealed plans to deploy the A350-1000s on North American routes. In October, JAL announced new cabin products for the A350, featuring premium-class seats from Safran and economy-class seats from Recaro. Notable enhancements include enclosed private suites in first and business class and fixed-back seats in premium economy. Initially scheduled for service in November, supply chain delays have pushed the launch timeline.

Adjustments Amidst Economic and Travel Trends

Shimizu and Leggett, speaking at the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines’ Assembly of Presidents in Singapore, also highlighted JAL's orders for 21 Boeing 737 Max 8s, set to enter the fleet in 2026 for domestic routes. They noted that deliveries are still on schedule.

In the context of travel demand, JAL executives observed an increase in outbound travel over the past six months, though it lags behind the inbound recovery. The disparity in recovery rates for inbound and outbound demand is attributed to a weaker Japanese Yen. Despite slower outbound recovery, there is an upward trend, particularly in business travel. The airline also sees promising growth in transit traffic between Asia and North America.

As of September 30, JAL reported recovering about 70% of its pre-pandemic traffic, with domestic flights at around 90%. Economic factors have influenced changes in Japanese outbound travel patterns, with a noticeable shift towards more short- to medium-haul trips during the summer vacation period, as opposed to longer journeys to the USA or Europe.