As flights around the world continue to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, some news from Japan this week offers hope of a return to normality in the not too distant future. Japan Airlines (JAL) said on Wednesday that it is eyeing operating a full domestic schedule as early as October. The news comes as the airline is seeing signs of recovery in travel demand after the Japanese government lifted domestic travel restrictions in June.
Travel demand is recovering
In a statement seen by Simple Flying, the carrier announced that travel demand has recovered by approximately 30% since the domestic travel restrictions were lifted on June 19th. The signs of recovery are encouraging, with the company expecting a recovery of 50% in the second half of July. By August, this is expected to increase even further. Shunsuke Honda, an executive officer, told reporters at Tokyo’s Haneda airport,
“We expect to recover to 80 percent in August and fully operate in line with our normal schedule around October.”
JAL will resume 66% of its scheduled domestic flights during the latter half of July. It is looking to operate more than 70% of flights to major destinations from Haneda Airport, including New Chitose, Osaka Itami, Fukuoka, and Okinawa Naha. As staycations and domestic holidays are expected to be the norm this year, the airline is offering 12 flights a day to the popular island destination of Okinawa Naha. The airline also announced that extra flights to the island will be offered on specific dates.
JAL cut over 70% of flights from its regular schedule when Japan declared a nationwide state of emergency in April.
Social distancing measures removed
At the end of April, JAL implemented social distancing measures, which included leaving the middle seat empty to provide more space between passengers.
This week JAL became the latest airline to announce that it will end the practice of blocking the middle seat from being booked. It said that in light of the removal of the state of emergency in Japan, this was no longer necessary. Face masks are still compulsory though, and social distancing must be maintained in the airport and while boarding.
The carrier has also said that it plans to operate more flights or send larger aircraft on specific routes to avoid planes being fully booked.
JAL employees work from home allowance
JAL plans to provide up to $1400 (150,000 Japanese Yen) to some of its employees this month to help them with their work from home needs. Employees have been encouraged to work from home since March to reduce office attendance by 60% or more.
The airline is looking to hand out this allowance to approximately 36,000 employees from the carrier and its group companies. It will cost the company approximately $46.6 million.
The airline announced the move to lift the morale of its employees after having already halved their summer bonuses from year-earlier levels as revenue decreased amid the current pandemic. Company executives will have their bonuses cut by 70%, while Chairman Yoshiharu Ueki and President Yuji Akasaka will receive no bonuses.
Do you think Japan Airlines will be able to resume its full domestic schedule by October? Let us know in the comments.