Japanese Cargo Carriers Facing Strong Headwinds

A decade or two ago the Japanese air cargo market was seen as being the strongest in the Far East, if not worldwide. However, high production costs led to many electronic products being produced outside of the country in so called “new tiger areas“ and a gradual dilution of the country’s export power.

JAL Boeing 747F – once proudly flying the skies  -  company courtesy
JAL Boeing 747F – once proudly flying the skies - company courtesy

Japan’s freight operators face strong headwinds
It started with Japan Airlines, the country’s proud national carrier.
JAL once had a strong cargo product supported by a formidable all freighter fleet and large well-functioning cargo warehouses throughout the world. The airline got into financial trouble and the end result was that the freighter fleet was done away with as well as a heavy dilution of own-managed warehouses around the globe.
Cargo handling was outsourced in various areas and many saw this as being the end of JAL’s once proud cargo product.

NCA and ANA tried to fill the gap.
Gradual strong competition from Chinese production areas continued to erode Japanese production lines and Chinese airlines popped up like mushrooms to take the lion’s share of the cargo produced in their homeland.

However, there was still Nippon Cargo Airlines (NCA), Japan’s all freighter flagship carrier as well as All Nippon Airline (ANA), who kept the flag flying.

ANA has recently gone into a cargo joint venture with Lufthansa Cargo and NCA is it seems fighting an uphill battle to make a profit as an all-cargo airline.

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Massive freighter fleet reduction
NCA has just announced that it has cancelled the remaining two Boeing 747-8Fs on order with the Seattle based manufacturer.
This is bad news for the Japanese airline.
They were a launch customer with Boeing for the -8 series freighter and had ordered a total of fourteen units.
However, demand for growth diminished and as the carrier took delivery of their first three B747-8Fs, they were trying to get a good price for the sale of their outgoing B747-400 freighters, which nobody at that time really wanted.
The end result has been that from the fourteen new freighters ordered, only eight have been taken by NCA.
In late 2015, after the eight were delivered, NCA cancelled four of the remaining six units and has now just cancelled on the remaining two aircraft.

This is not good news for the Japanese air freight community and one can only hope that NCA, ANA and JAL will one day be back on line as the proud freight operators they were in the past.

John Mc Donagh

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