Despite some of the world’s strictest pandemic travel restrictions, a Japanese airline is bringing back its Airbus A380 superjumbos to improve capacity on the popular route from Tokyo Narita.
The pandemic was thought to be the end of the A380, as airlines such as Air France and Singapore Airlines permanently retired some or all of their superjumbos, while others such as Lufthansa and Etihad put theirs into long-term storage.
There was even speculation at the height of the epidemic of Emirates retiring up to half of its flagship A380 fleet early, but those plans never materialized, and the superjumbo will remain an important component of the Emirates fleet for years to come.
Unfortunately, the A380’s future is questionable at certain airlines, but others are excited about the increased capacity on critical routes. Some A380s have already been reintroduced to service by British Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Qatar Airways, with Qantas planning to do so soon.
Because travel restrictions were lifted, those airlines required the A380 back as quickly as possible. However, the situation in Japan appears to be even more volatile.
Returning citizens can only skip mandatory quarantine if they’ve obtained at least three COVID-19 immunization shots.
That hasn’t stopped eager Japanese tourists from visiting their favorite vacation places, particularly Hawaii.
In fact, ANA, a Tokyo-based airline, acquired three Airbus A380s specifically for its Tokyo to Honolulu service prior to the epidemic. The first A380 was delivered to the airline in March 2019, and the planes only flew for a year before the pandemic prompted the route to be discontinued and the A380s to be stored.
They’ve returned. The ANA A380s, dubbed the “flying Honu,” will resume service on July 1. The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, also known as the Honu, has a striking livery design that inspired the name.
The first A380 supplied to ANA was painted blue, the second was painted green, and the third and final A380 was painted orange.
Only 510,000 Japanese people fled the country last year, compared to 20 million before the tsunami. For financial recovery in 2021, airlines are counting on a comeback in outbound tourism to Hawaii, followed by a much broader reopening that might include overseas tourists after June 2022.
In addition to Hawaii, ANA hopes to reintroduce Japanese tourists to previously popular cities such as Los Angeles and New York City.