ANA announces its new Boeing 787 flights between San Jose and Tokyo will begin Jan. 11
SAN JOSE -- All Nippon Airways' announcement Tuesday that it will launch its highly anticipated San Jose-Tokyo route Jan. 11 is giving Mineta San Jose International Airport lift in its efforts to garner more overseas routes after years of struggling to attract new flights in a tough economy.
ANA will be flying a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner into San Jose five days a week, making the airport the first in the Bay Area to land the innovative and fuel-efficient aircraft.
The flight's scheduled departures from San Jose will be 11:45 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Each 11-hour flight is expected to arrive at Narita International Airport shortly after 4 p.m. the next day with connecting flights throughout Asia. The flight will leave Tokyo at 5:35 p.m., arriving in San Jose shortly after 10 a.m. The 787-8 aircraft will be configured to have 46 business-class seats and 112 economy-class seats, the airline said.
The ANA announcement capped a four-year courtship between the city and the Tokyo-based airline to provide a trans-Pacific service officials hope will be a catalyst for more international flights out of San Jose. It will be the first direct flight linking San Jose to Asia since 2006, when American Airlines ended its route to Tokyo after 17 years.
"If ANA does well in the first three to six months and load factors are high -- and I have all the confidence it will be -- I think in the middle to latter part of 2013 you'll start hearing announcements about flights to points in Europe and Korea" from San Jose, said Bill Sherry, the airport's aviation director. "It's a game changer."
The ANA flight is a welcome boost for the newly redesigned airport, which needs to attract more international and direct flights to the East Coast to meet the travel needs of Silicon Valley road warriors tired of schlepping up to San Francisco International Airport for long-haul trips. More flights will also help pay down the $1.4 billion debt from a major makeover.
San Jose's airport has about 125 flights a day, most of which are at or near capacity. Officials, though, have struggled to attract more flights, routes and airlines to its gleaming new Terminal B, one of the nation's most tech-savvy airport facilities with power outlets built into chairs and free Wi-Fi that opened amid a prolonged economic downturn.
"We need more air travel to pay down the cost of building this brand-new terminal," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, who along with Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino traveled to Tokyo in February 2011 to sip tea with ANA CEO Shinichiro Ito and make a case for flights between San Jose and Japan. Also playing a role in attracting the airline was Mercury News Publisher Mac Tully, chairman of the leadership group's CEO airport task force.
"Success breeds success," Reed said. "The fact ANA said they will start up here has gotten quite a bit of attention from other airlines."
San Jose, though, is apt to face stiff headwinds in its efforts to attract more long-haul flights, said Seth Kaplan, managing partner with industry publication Airline Weekly. The wobbly global economy and high price of jet fuel make airline expansion plans costly and risky, particularly among U.S. carriers, he said.
Kaplan said San Jose's ANA flight "will probably remain the exception to the rule," Kaplan said.
San Jose and Oakland International airports face tough competition from San Francisco, which has about 20 daily flights to Asia and 13 to Europe. SFO also has high-volume domestic flights that funnel passengers from around the country onto international flights, making the airport particularly attractive to carriers.
Sherry admitted it's a tougher sell to domestic airlines, which are working to replace their aging fleets but not necessarily to expand service like foreign competitors are doing. "They are not willing to rob service from one city to put it into another city," he said.
However, Burlingame-based Virgin America has indicated it could start service out of San Jose next year, Sherry said.
San Jose officials believe they have a winning pitch to other overseas airlines, including the valley's plethora of multinational companies that do business in Asia, a large Asian population and the new Boeing 787, a more fuel-efficient jet designed for connecting smaller markets. San Jose also provided ANA a three-year package of financial incentives of reduced fees and marketing assistance valued at about $3 million.
"We told them we would deliver full planes," Guardino said. "We have every intention of doing our part to help insure their planes are full. We have to come through."