ANA’s president talks about the future of Japanese air travel

And it looks good for the rest of us, because he speaks of cheaper domestic and international flights out of Haneda. Which means that people in Tokyo can save a few hundred bucks on their airfares, plus the money and time it takes to get to Narita.

“We think we will see low-cost carriers in Haneda in 2009,” President and CEO Mineo Yamamoto told journalists in Tokyo last month at an event organized by Star Alliance. Speaking through a translator, he noted that current plans call for the number of operational slots at the airport to increase by 40% vis-a-vis the current level to 407,000 annually.

ANA accepts that it will lose some travelers to budget carriers but intends to maintain focus on higher-yield passengers. However, this may not be possible. “What we are most afraid of,” Yamamoto explained, is that Japan Airlines “will follow the strategy of LCCs like Skymark and enter the low-fare quagmire.” He said ANA is studying launching a domestic low-fare airline, although it appeared from his remarks that this more likely would be a countermeasure.

The carrier also is concerned that Tiger Airways or another Southeast Asian LCC will be given slots at Haneda to operate discount flights in Asia. ANA is evaluating using Air Japan, its leisure/holiday airline, to counter this threat. In this case, it would look at opening a base in Bangkok or Singapore staffed with foreign cockpit and cabin crews. In spite of the concern over LCCs, Yamamoto told ATWOnline that ANA is asking the Japanese government to double the number of new slots dedicated to international operations at Haneda from 30,000 to 60,000 annually.

In related news, the BIG CHANGE NAA took place earlier this month, in which the South Wing of Terminal 1 opened up for ANA, United and the other Star Alliance airlines. (The ads for it, with a girl deplaning from a hot pink Learjet followed by a badly-rendered Colonel Sanders-ish porter carrying her shopping bags, seem to personify all that is fecked up about Japan to me, but anyway.) The reshuffles will continue later this year when American, BA and the other oneworld airlines move to Terminal 2. Hopefully Keisei will use this as an excuse to change those old and busted seats on the Skyliner.