Despite some of the toughest pandemic travel restrictions in the world, a Japanese airline is experiencing such a massive surge in demand for flights to Hawaii that it is bringing back its Airbus A380 superjumbos to increase capacity on the popular route from Tokyo Narita.
It was feared that the pandemic would be the end of the A380 as the likes of Air France and Singapore Airlines permanently retired some or all of their superjumbos while others like Lufthansa and Etihad put their A380s into long-term storage.
At the height of the pandemic, there was even talk of Emirates prematurely retiring up to half of its flagship A380 fleet but those plans never came to fruition and the superjumbo will remain an integral part of the Emirates fleet for years to come.
Unfortunately, the future of the A380 remains uncertain at some airlines, but others are embracing the capacity boost on key routes. British Airways, Singapore and Qatar Airways have already returned some of their A380s to service, while Qantas is restarting A380 operations soon as well.
Those airlines needed the A380 back so soon because the ending of travel restrictions drove back customer demand. The situation in Japan, however, has looked a lot more unstable.
Foreign tourists are still banned from entering the country and returning citizens are only allowed to skip mandatory quarantine if they’ve received at least three COVID-19 vaccination shots.
That, however, hasn’t dissuaded travel-hungry Japanese tourists from visiting their favourite holiday spots – notably Hawaii.
In fact, before the pandemic, Tokyo-based airline ANA ordered three Airbus A380s exclusively for its Tokyo to Honolulu route. The airline took delivery of the first A380 in March 2019 so the aircraft were only flying for a year before the pandemic forced the route to be suspended and the A380s into storage.
Now, they’re back. From July 1, the ‘flying Honu’ as ANA’s A380s are known will return to the skies. The name is based on the distinctive livery design of the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle which is also known as the Honu.
The first A380 which was delivered to ANA has a blue design, while the second is green and the third and final A380 is painted orange.
Last year, only 510,000 Japanese people left the country, compared to 20 million pre-pandemic. Airlines are betting on a resurgence in outbound tourism to Hawaii for financial recovery in 2021 before a much wider reopening that could even include foreign tourists from some point after June 2022.
As well as Hawaii, ANA also wants to get Japanese tourists back to once-favourite destinations like Los Angeles and New York City.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.