Japan Air Commuter Has Retired Its Last Saab

The Saab 340B has been retired from Japan Airlines (JAL) regional fleet, replaced by an ATR42-600.

JAC has retired its last Saab 340B. Photo: Lasta29 via Wikimedia

What are the details?

Japan Airlines regional fleet, under the banner of subsidiary airline Japan Air Commuter, has retried its last Saab 340B as reported by CH-Aviation.

The airline had intended to retire the aircraft type by November 30th this year, but the last remaining Saab 340B’s replacement aircraft (an ATR42-600) was not yet delivered. However, by December 20th the new ATR had been delivered and operational, thus Japan Air Commuter felt confident to retire the Saab type.

The last flight of the Saab 340B was JAC3784 from Kikaiga Shima to Kagoshima.

The flight of the aircraft. Photo: Radar Box 24

From now on, Japan Air Commuter will fly an all-ATR fleet of two ATR72-600s and seven ATR42-600s. They have one more ATR42-600 yet to be delivered.

Why did JAL upgrade its regional fleet?

Those who have flown on the Saab 340B might be wondering what the big difference is and why JAL chose to upgrade its regional fleet.

The deal for these aircraft was a first for Japan, according to ATR, who noted that the value of the order was in the region of $496 million USD.

The ATR42-600 is “a perfect match” due to its economic, environmental and operational specifications, said Arata Yasujima, president of Japan Air Commuter.

The ATR42-600 can seat 48 passengers compared to the Saab 340B’s 34, but can only fly 716 nautical miles (1,326 km) compared to 935 nautical miles (1,732 km).

What is it like on board the Japan Air Commuter ATRs?

The new JAL / JAC ATR is a bigger capacity aircraft. Photo: 湯小沅 via Flickr

As mentioned, the JAC ATR is a bigger aircraft than the smaller Saab 340B. Passengers will have more room to wander around the cabin and are guaranteed to have someone sitting next to them. This is because the cabin increases not just in rows but in seats per row. The Saab 340B has an all-economy configuration of 1-2 and the new ATR has a seat configuration of 2-2.

You can see the difference in the seat maps below:

The older Saab 340B configuration. Photo: JAL

Compared to the bigger ATR:

The newer ATR cabin configuration. Photo: JAL

Other differences involve the lavatory being moved to the back of the aircraft, and an exit door if needed. There is also an odd first row on the ATR that seems to be placed up by the cockpit.

With this retirement, the Saab 340B is now only used by one other airline in Japan. Hokkaido Air System, a small regional player in Hokkaido still operates four Saab 340B aircraft.

JAL has been contacted by Simple Flying for a comment regarding this aircraft swap over and the phasing out of the Saab 340B:

We appreciate the support of all our customers and the local communities we serve.   The SAAB 340B was a valuable aircraft and helped us carry countless customers for nearly three decades.

What do you think of this change? Do you think it is an upgrade? Let us know in the comments!