As Japan begins rebuilding after the devastating earthquake and tsunami of 11 March, All Nipon Airways is playing a key role in operating relief flights. BTN talks to Katsuji Kitazawa, ANA’s Head of UK Sales, about the current situation.
BTN: In what ways is ANA supporting the recovery effort after the earthquake in Japan
KK: The ANA Group has decided to donate 100 million yen (£770,000) to aid and support those affected by the earthquake and introduced a Donation Mile for all ANA Mileage Club members. In the ANA UK website, a link to the British Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org.uk/JapanANA ) is set up to provide another option for the donation.
ANA has been operating relief flights to Fukushima, Yamagata and Sendai airports and is providing free transport of relief supplies and for relief workers as required by the Japanese government and/or local authorities.
ANA also provided relief goods such as blankets, lounge wears, crockery, amenities, and food and beverage supplies that are served on board ANA flights, in cooperation with Japan Platform (JPF), an international emergency humanitarian aid organization, and its partner NGO organizations.
How have recent events in Japan affected ANA’s operations from the UK?
KK: In the London-Tokyo route, the first two weeks after the earthquake, we saw a decrease of 20 percent. However, along with the recovery of business activities, the business demand is almost back to the normal level. A challenge is to bring back the leisure demand. We believe that encouraging UK tourists to visit Japan will be our contribution to the recovery of Japan.
Having resumed flights to Sendai, what are your expectations for this route in the future?
KK: We expect re-open Sendai airport and our relief fights between Tokyo and Sendai would support reconstruction from the quake.
The relief flight aircraft is in special livery and painted with a message ‘Forward together as one, Japan’. We are also painting aircraft for international flights in English. We hope people to see a sign of recovery from this resumed flight.
Katsuji Kitazawa, ANA’s Head of UK Sales
What additional challenges are you currently facing and how are you tackling these?
KK: Raising fuel prices is one of the most difficult challenges. While hedging the oil cost, we have been planning to replace current aircraft to more fuel-efficient and low CO2 emission aircraft such as the Boeing 787. This planning was acknowledged from an ecological aspect by the Japanese Government and we were endorsed as the first ‘Eco-First’ airline in 2008.
How is ANA coping with the rising price of crude oil and kerosene?
KK: ANA already hedged 60 percent of our oil cost for FY2011.
What impact do you expect a proposed fuel surcharge to have on ticket sales from the UK?
KK: ANA announced to revise FSC for June and July. It will be £189 (currently £132) for London to Tokyo route.
BTN: In what ways is ANA staying ahead of competition and differentiating itself in the market?
KK: This include innovative products and services; Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s launch customer; new product & service brand ‘Inspiration of Japan’; reinforcing its network; Star Alliance & Joint ventures
(ANA is the launch customer of Boeing’s revolutionary Dreamliner)
BTN: What new products and services can we expect to see being rolled out in coming months?
KK: Following the launch of our new product ‘Inspiration of Japan’ in last autumn, we expect to receive Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the 3rd quarter of 2011 as its launch customer. The operation might start from domestic routes first but we hope to operate 787 in the near future on European routes.
We are applying for anti-trust immunity to launch a joint venture with Lufthansa on routes between Japan and Europe. We believe this will allow us to offer efficient and comprehensive service to passengers.
What are some of the current trends that are impacting UK travel patterns?
KK: High oil prices, high GB taxes and sluggish economy make situation for UK travellers very tough. Also natural disasters such as snow disruption, volcano ash make passengers aware of risk management. Because of these obstacles, travellers are getting very clever for selecting their travels. We need to offer services and products which satisfy these smart travellers.
What are your predictions for the aviation industry?
KK: Under the circumstances of recent rising fuel prices, it is difficult to survive with just price competition. We need to create special values and offer services which are selected for passengers.
Our successful launch of new products last autumn proved this. ANA keeps striving to offer innovative and original products and services and creating values.