Etihad has become the first Middle Eastern airline to operate from the Japanese capital Tokyo – with Emirates coming a close second.
The airline launched its inaugural flight between Abu Dhabi and Tokyo on March 27, the first of five regular flights between the two cities every week; 10 first class, 26 business class and 164 economy seats will be available on each flight.
On-board entertainment and food has been adapted for the route, which is expected to be popular with business travelers. For Japanese travelers, it also opens up around 60 destinations available from Etihad’s rapidly growing Abu Dhabi hub. The airline launched its first Japan service in February, with flights to Nagoya airport.
“The launch of both the Tokyo and Nagoya routes this quarter demonstrates the developing cultural ties between the Middle East and the Far East,” said Etihad’s Peter Baumgartner at a Japanese cultural event in Dubai earlier this month. “With the launch of these direct routes we would expect to see existing partnerships grow even closer.”
Emirates, the national airline of Dubai, followed suit on March 28. Its new service, scheduled to fly five times weekly to Tokyo, touched down at Narita airport at 18:00. Eight first class, 42 business class and 304 economy seats will be available on the aircraft.
The growth of the Middle East and the United Arab Emirates in particular as a business and tourism hub has led to rapid growth in the region’s air transport capabilities, led by Abu Dhabi and Dubai flag-carriers Etihad and Emirates.
In 2009, the Middle East bucked the trend of global aviation, posting a 13 percent growth in passenger capacity, whilst the global average fell by 3 percent in total. Aviation trade body IATA attributed this to a jump in the growth in longhaul traffic across Middle Eastern hubs such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai International airports.
Air Canada also inaugurated a new route to Tokyo on March 27 with a new non-stop service between Calgary and Narita.