TOKYO: All Nippon Airways (ANA) said it would buy 70 new planes worth $16.4 billion, with almost half from Airbus, in a move that marks a victory for the European aircraft maker.
The airline will buy 40 planes from Boeing, its major supplier, and one that has had a virtual stranglehold in Japan for decades, and 30 from Airbus, to expand its fleet ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a statement said.
The order includes 14 of Boeing’s troubled Dreamliner, as well as 20 units of the 777-9X, and six 777-300ERs.
It will also buy seven Airbus A320neo and 23 Airbus A321neo.
“ANA Group’s introduction of these new aircraft will help it respond to the needs of the increasing number of passengers expected to arrive in Japan in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and will support the Japanese government’s plans to boost the annual total of foreign visitors to Japan to 20 million,” the firm said.
The orders, collectively the biggest in ANA’s history, came as the airline aggressively looks to expand its international presence, which has included grabbing the lion’s share of the coveted new landing spots offered at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.
Shinichiro Ito, president and chief executive of ANA Holdings, said the choices of aircraft were made based on the products’ quality, not by brand.
While the deal will give Airbus a morale boost in a market dominated by Boeing, Ito hinted the US manufacturer’s 777 model was simply a better plane than the equivalent produced by its European rival.
“We considered the large size 777-9X while also studying the A350. We studied the quality and economic feasibility as well as when they can be delivered, when we can own them,” Ito told a news conference.
“Also we studied which model would be the most compatible to what we already have. As a result, we decided to choose the B777,” he said.
“We never make our orders because it is Boeing or because it is Airbus. Our main concern is whether the aircraft matches our needs and economic feasibility. That is how we made the decision this time and will make our decisions in the future.”
ANA’s rival and flagship carrier Japan Airlines announced in October that it had agreed to buy 31 airplanes from Airbus, a landmark $9.5 billion order, setting the aviation industry buzzing with speculation that its competitor may follow suit.
Last year, the European manufacturer had a 13 percent share of the Japanese market, but said it wanted eventually to be the maker of one of every two planes in operation in Japan.
Airbus welcomed ANA’s decision as the latest step for the company’s “regular progression” in the Japanese market.
“After the A350 ordered last year by JAL, we welcome the recognition of the A320neo and A321neo by ANA in Japan, one of the world’s most difficult markets,” Airbus president and CEO Fabrice Bregier said.
Japan’s two big carriers have been badly hit by the well-publicized problems with Boeing’s troubled Dreamliner.
The lightweight plane — hailed for its fuel-efficiency but marred by years of production delays — was grounded globally in January last year after lithium-ion batteries overheated on two different planes, with one of them catching fire while parked.
The Japanese airlines, which are the single biggest operators of the Dreamliner, have put their fleets back into service, after being forced to cancel hundreds of flights.
Thursday’s orders will be delivered between 2016 and 2027 and will increase the size of the ANA fleet to 250 aircraft. New Boeing planes will serve mainly international routes while the Airbus planes will operate both overseas and domestic trips, ANA said.
Separately, Japan Transocean Air (JTA) announced it placed orders for 12 next generation Boeing 737-800, worth $1.1 billion, replacing its 737-400 fleet.
A member of the Japan Airlines Group, JTA is based in Naha, southern Okinawa.