A state of emergency was declared in seven Japanese prefectures on Tuesday, 7 April. The prefectures include Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka. Both Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways announced schedule cuts following the declaration.
State of emergency imposed until early May
A report in Business Traveller says the state of emergency will last for one month. Unlike what we are seeing elsewhere, a state of emergency in Japan won’t see lockdowns imposed and businesses closed.
According to the Japan Times, local prefecture authorities do not have the power to enforce lockdowns. Further, they can only request that facilities like cinemas, schools and shops close. But the media outlet reports that both the Japanese public and government are getting twitchy about the global pandemic. Japanese PM, Shinzo Abe commented, saying,
“The situation is getting desperate. In order for us to escape this emergency, the premise is to slash interaction among people between 70 and 80 percent. It is not easy … (but) everything is dependent on our behavior. I ask for your cooperation.”
Japanese domestic airline industry slows down
As the impact of the pandemic bites, Japan’s famously busy domestic airline industry is slowing down. By the close of March, Japan Airlines had canceled over 3,000 domestic flights since the virus first reared its head. Competitor All Nippon Airways had canceled around 2,250 domestic flights.
After a substantial raft of domestic service reductions in early March, both airlines kept trimming forward services as the month progressed. In April, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines have announced two rounds of further domestic service reductions.
The latest domestic service reductions coincide with Japan’s Prime Minister announcing the state of emergency.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Japan Airlines said;
“As government officials today declared a state of emergency for multiple prefectures in Japan, JAL will reduce additional flights in response to the expected decline in travel demand .”
Across April, Japan Airlines is cutting its domestic capacity by an average of 25%. You can read the full list of changes here.
All Nippon Airways says it is cutting 1,742 flights over April. It will impact on 48 routes. Flights in and out of Tokyo Haneda will bear the brunt of these latest cuts. Flights in and out of Tokyo Narita, Itami, Kansai, Nagoya, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, and Naha are also being trimmed. You can read the full list of changes here.
Japanese carriers expected to face revenue loss of USD$9.3 billion
The good news is that both airlines don’t appear to be abandoning routes, rather reducing services.
It is estimated that the global pandemic will cost the two Japanese carriers USD$9.3 billion. The 2020 pandemic is knocking the Japanese aviation industry around far more than SARS did. One local aviation insider told the Japan Times it was unprecedented.
“We have never seen such a sharp fall in demand for domestic flights, a source of stable income for Japanese airlines. “We often see flights with passengers in the single digits.”
In conjunction with the state of emergency announcement, the Japanese government released an emergency stimulus package worth an eye-watering USD$100 billion. That’s being directed to both households and businesses. Whether any will be directed at big businesses like Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways is an open question. Either way, with the Japanese government increasingly agitating for its citizens to stay home, demand for domestic airline travel in Japan will remain depressed for some time yet.