Japanese airline ANA will increase international flights as borders reopens for travel

ALL Nippon Airways Co. will increase international flights and cabin staff numbers to meet an anticipated jump in demand when Japan abolishes Covid border controls next month.

“We’ve long been waiting for the easing of restrictions,” Chief Executive Officer Shinichi Inoue told reporters at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Friday. “We want to welcome visitors from overseas with increased flights.”

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday that border controls would be eased from Oct. 11, with the country ending its cap on daily arrivals and allowing tourists to enter without visas.

Covid hit Japan’s tourism industry hard — there were only about 246,000 foreign visitors last year, compared with a record 31.9 million in 2019.

ANA’s position has improved as virus curbs gradually eased globally, helping narrow its fiscal first-quarter operating loss to 1.32 billion yen ($9.3 million) from 64.6 billion yen a year earlier. The airline carried 330,796 passengers internationally in July, up from 197,571 in April.

ANA’s international schedule for August shows it offers 710 flights a week, serving 36 cities. Inoue didn’t specify how many more would be added, but the airline said last month that it plans to increase North America flights to about 90% of pre-pandemic levels from Oct. 30. Inoue said Friday there has been strong demand for Honolulu trips, as well as from Singapore.

The weakness of the yen will also help drive inbound travel, he said. The Japanese currency has tumbled about 23% against the dollar this year, prompting a rare government intervention Thursday.

The decision to relax border controls was welcomed by citizens, including Takamasa Hattori, 27, whose Indonesian partner hasn’t been able to enter Japan since 2019. He now expects them to be reunited in Japan as early as October. “I’m very excited,” Hattori said.

Japan Airlines Co. is readying for a recovery too. “We want to contribute to revitalizing the Japanese economy by being fully prepared to welcome foreign visitors,” it said in a statement Thursday. – BLOOMBERG