By JORDAN IKEDA
Rafu Staff Writer
Continuing its recent surge towards ensconcing itself as Japan’s No. 1 airline, All Nippon Airways celebrated its inaugural flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Tokyo International Airport (Haneda Airport) at 12:50 a.m. Sunday morning.
“At last the dream has come true,” said ANA LAX station manager Richard Ide during a short press conference preceding the flight. “After 24 years of flying from Los Angeles to Japan, we now have a shorter connection between Tokyo and Los Angeles.”
Amidst flashing camera bulbs and interviews from reporters, passengers of ANA’s maiden voyage from LAX to Haneda were welcomed by ANA staff including ANA’s general manager Hirotaka Hattori who shook their hands and handed out pairs of specialized Adidas slippers emblazoned with the ANA logo.
“This is really cool,” Kenji Kondo told the Rafu Shimpo. “It’s very convenient for me because I am flying to Kobe. Narita doesn’t have any connection to Kobe, but Haneda is very convenient for Japanese travelers.”
Since it’s opening in 1931, Haneda Airport has been the central hub for domestic flights around Japan. Two weeks ago, ANA announced further expansion of international services from the newly refurbished Tokyo International Airport as part of its strategy to become Asia’s leading carrier.
The expansion at Haneda follows completion of a new international terminal at the airport, from where international passengers will be able to access more than 200 Japanese domestic flights and rapid connections to central Tokyo. The Haneda plan complements ANA’s strong presence at Tokyo’s Narita Airport.
“With this new Haneda route, our passengers will have more choices with arrival and departure times as well as destinations,” Hattori said through a translator. “From Haneda, passengers can fly anywhere in Japan from northern Hokkaido to southern Okinawa.
“That being said,” Hattori continued, “Narita airport is perfect for those passengers looking to connect to the rest of Asia.”
While Narita still remains Japan’s international hub, ANA is to begin operating international code-share flights from Haneda with Air Canada, Air China, Asiana Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways International, all members of Star Alliance, as well as with Eva Airways and Malaysia Airlines.
“I knew this was the first flight and that’s why I chose it,” said Los Angeles resident Yumi Miyagishima who was flying out to Tokyo to visit family. “I’m really excited to fly to Haneda just because it’s so much closer than Narita. It takes forever getting to Tokyo from Narita, especially when the roads are crowded.”
In fact, convenience was the word of the evening as several passengers that were interviewed relayed how much easier it will be to fly into Haneda, a mere 30 minutes from downtown Tokyo, as opposed to flying into Narita which can take over two hours to get to downtown depending on the time of day.
While ANA’s fiercest competitor, Japan Airlines, managed to send off the first regular international flight in 32 years out of Haneda on Sunday (beating ANA by three minutes), JAL has thus far endured a rough year that began with filing for bankruptcy in January and continued with controversial layoffs and route closures since.
As JAL struggles, ANA is looking to expand its service in a big way and will be launching new routes that connect Haneda to Honolulu, Singapore, Bangkok, and Taipei (Songshan) as well as Beijing, Shanghai (Hongqiao), Hong Kong, and Seoul (Gimpo).
Later this week, ANA will introduce the new Boeing 767-300ER on the mid-haul routes, starting from flights to Singapore. Under ANA’s brand concept “Inspiration of Japan”, the company is looking to deliver unprecedented comfort. From fully revamped business class seating, to its new in-flight services that includes special lighting, sound and scents, to the upgraded airport lounges, to a variety of discount and value fares, ANA is aggressively pursuing its goal of becoming Asia’s No. 1 airline.
Last Friday, ANA posted close to a fivefold jump in quarterly profit benefiting from cost cuts and a recovery in travel. The carrier said its July-September net profit swelled to 18.5 billion yen ($230 million) from 3.8 billion yen a year earlier. Revenue rose 10 percent year-on-year to 372.2 billion yen, and the company now expects a net profit of 6 billion yen, up from 5 billion yen projected earlier.
“We listen to our passengers and their needs before making changes and improvements,” Hattori said.
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For more information on all of ANA’s new routes and the host of upgrades the company has made to nearly every aspect of its business, visit www.fly-ana.com