For an airline with a substantial global presence, Japan Airlines flies a relatively small number of aircraft types. Overall, Japan Airlines operates eight different types of aircraft with 155 planes in total. That makes Japan Airlines is a fairly small airline in terms of fleet size. But in terms of presence and brand recognition, Japan Airlines punches well above its weight.
Japan Airlines keeps a small fleet comprising eight different aircraft types
According to data from ch-aviation, Japan Airlines has eight Airbus A350-900s in their fleet and a further 23 due to be delivered (made up of 10 Airbus A350-900s and 13 Airbus A350-1000s). The airline also has 19 Boeing 777s including 13 Boeing 777-300ERs and six Boeing 777-200ERs. However, Japan Airlines is also winding down its Boeing 777 fleet. In the near future, the Airbus A350 will be the airline’s flagship aircraft and biggest plane.
The airline also has a fleet of 29 Boeing 767-300ERs and a pair of 767-300s. The average age of the Boeing 767s is 14.4 years. A little more contemporary are the 49 Boeing 787 Dreamliners Japan Airlines flies. They have 27 Boeing 787-8s and 22 Boeing 787-9s with an average age of just five years. Two Dreamliners have already left the Japan Airlines fleet. They have been sent to Japan Airlines’ wholly-owned low-cost offshoot airline, Zipair.
Stepping down to narrowbody jets, Japan Airlines operates 48 Boeing 737-800s. The unglamorous 737-800 is the workhorse of the Japan Airlines fleet, flying domestic and short-haul international routes around North Asia.
A swing to Airbus at Boeing’s expense?
In terms of future orders, Japan Airlines is concentrating on the A350s. When the last A350 arrives at Japan Airlines, the airline will have 31 in its fleet. The order dates back several years but the first A350-900 only touched down in June 2019. The A350-900s are destined to fly high-frequency domestic routes while the larger A350-1000 will fly on Japan Airlines’ long-haul international network.
The order is interesting because while the A350 is a fine plane, Japan Airlines has been a very Boeing-focused airline. While it has previously operated a fleet of long-retired Airbus A300s, the A350 is only the second Airbus type to fly for Japan Airlines in its 70-year history.
In contrast, Japan Airlines has operated 23 types of Boeing aircraft, albeit with many of those model types coming from within the same Boeing family. For instance, Japan Airlines has flown 11 different types of 747s, four different types of Boeing 767s, and four versions of the 777.
Japan Airlines also ordered 32 Mitsubishi M90 SpaceJets in 2015 (with a delivery ETA of 2021). But with the SpaceJet program on hiatus and its future uncertain, it is very much up in the air whether Japan Airlines (or any other airline) ever gets delivery. Most aircraft databases seem to think not, having quietly excised the SpaceJet from their delivery counts.
Japan Airlines favors plane ownership over leasing
Like many long-established legacy carriers, Japan Airlines owns the majority of its planes, with the airline bucking the contemporary trend towards leasing planes. According to ch-aviation, across its 155 jets, only 20 planes are leased. Of those 20 leased planes, 18 leases relate to Boeing 737-800s. Those leases are distributed around eight leasing companies, including Avolon, Macquarie Air Finance, and DAE Capital.
Japan Airlines also leases a single Boeing 787-9 and 767-300ER. The Dreamliner, JA873J, comes from SMBC Aviation Capital. The older Boeing 767, JA616J, comes from Sojitz Aircraft Leasing.