A recovering Japanese tourist market has prompted Air New Zealand to put its Boeing 747-400 aircraft on the Tokyo route for the first time in half a decade.
The news comes after a 12 per cent increase in Japanese visitor numbers to New Zealand, which saw 87,700 arrivals in 2010. This was preceded by just 78,000 Japanese visitors in 2009, all of which represented a marked decline from the once bustling 165,000 Japanese visitor figure that was recorded in 2004.
To accommodate the increase in visitor numbers, Air New Zealand will boost capacity by 25 per cent over next summer on scheduled services between Tokyo’s Narita Airport and New Zealand, through the use of its 379 seat Boeing 747-400. The airline currently operates 304 seat Boeing 777-200ERs daily between New Zealand and Tokyo. Boeing 767-300s are also being used between New Zealand and Osaka-Kansai Airport five times a week.
Air New Zealand deputy CEO Norm Thompson noted that switching to a 747 for the airline’s Tokyo route will provide more than 1000 additional return seats per week over the high season. “The move demonstrates Air New Zealand’s confidence in the growth potential of the Japan tourism market,” he said. “The success of special charter flights this summer suggests the Japanese market is experiencing a strong recovery. Air New Zealand is currently operating 14 special return charter flights from nine departure points between the end of December and the beginning of April 2011. That’s triple the number we ran last year.”
The charter flights, which were operated with the support of Tourism New Zealand and Auckland International Airport Limited, saw a total of NZ$362 million spent in New Zealand by Japanese visitors in 2010. The Japanese remain the country’s most lucrative market, spending an average of NZ$4550 per person.