The tight connection between Japan and the Western world has existed throughout the commercial jet age. However, new obstacles have challenged that connection, from a global pandemic to a closure of nearly all airspace on the straight line between Japan and Europe.
This week, we spent extra time looking at passenger flows between Western Europe and Japan. Several trends stand out.
Firstly, Japan’s carriers now dominate the corridor. Still offering nonstop service around Russia, JAL has moved into the top spot as of 2021, a position long-held by ANA since 2014.
The European airlines (in dark blue) fill in the next tranche of airlines serving the market, often in their own local dogfights. For instance, Lufthansa held the top spot in 2013, now fifth in the market. KLM kept pace with partner Air France until 2022, when it fell to 10th position and currently sits at number 11. The limitations of Amsterdam departures has shifted capacity for the group to Air France.
Aeroflot offered connections in the market, taking advantage of the Moscow geography. As of 2022, Aeroflot not-so-mysteriously disappeared from the market entirely.
Without the availability of Russian airspace to the local carriers of Europe and Japan, other hubs become geographic powerhouses. Emirates has taken advantage of relatively southern Dubai to connect markets without a northern route.
From a macro perspective, the overall market remains down 40% compared to 2019 levels of traffic, even with the early surge in 2023. Even with economic headwinds facing the segment, we still see this as an opportunity for growth, likely to be accompanied by other Southeast Asian markets whose reentry into the global travel sphere did not begin in earnest until this year.
If the trend holds, the expectation is for Japan to maintain its lead in the market, but the landscape is changing elsewhere. Dubai is increasingly valuable for airlines excluded from Russian airspace. Istanbul also matches a similar benefit, driven further by Turkish Airlines’ aggressive growth – and access to Russian airspace.