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JAL to launch Boston-Tokyo service

Posted by guest  May 27, 2011 10:31 AM

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Japan Airlines will begin flying nonstop from Tokyo to Logan International Airport next year, an addition that is expected to give a significant economic boost to Boston, the biggest US market without nonstop service to Asia.

The new service, in partnership with American Airlines, will begin in April, and represents a victory for city and state officials, who have been lobbying airlines for years to begin nonstop service to Asia.

Having nonstop flights between the two regions is considered critical to tourism and business and could generate about $175 million a year for the regional economy, according to the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan.

“Our counterparts in Tokyo understand the value of a direct flight that will connect them to our growing health care, biotechnology, telecommunications, and advance technologies industries, and to our prestigious colleges and research universities,’’ Governor Deval Patrick said yesterday in a statement. “This is an invaluable economic partnership for the Commonwealth, and we look forward to the increased tourism, commerce, and economic development with Japan that it will bring.’’

Japan Airlines will offer four flights a week between Logan and Narita International Airport starting April 22, with daily service beginning in June. Making the 13 1/2-hour flight nonstop will shave up to six hours off the time it currently takes Boston passengers, who now have to connect through New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or a number of other cities to get to Tokyo.

“Nonstop service saves people time, and time is money, and you can translate that into increased demand,’’ said Daniel Kasper, a Boston aviation consultant at the economic litigation firm Compass Lexecon.

Tokyo is a desirable destination for Logan, which currently has service to 30 international destinations. About 70,000 passengers flew from Boston to Tokyo last year, the biggest Asian destination for local travelers.

Massport had been trying to land more nonstop international destinations since 2008, when it launched an incentive plan that grants marketing initiatives and waives or discounts landing fees for up to two years — a savings of up to $1 million.

Massport tried to get nonstop service to Beijing a few years ago, but the deal fell apart when the economy tanked and production of the Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner was delayed.

Asian markets are highly competitive, said chief executive Thomas Kinton, adding that China will be the next major international market Massport goes after.

“It just helps this city from the standpoint of marketing itself for business and job growth,’’ he said. “You add Asia into the mix, it just completes the picture.’’

A group of local politicians and business leaders that included Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino joined forces with Massport to convince Japan Airlines that Boston was a viable market. In addition to attracting more visitors to Boston, the nonstop flight will bring new passengers to Logan, including those who might have otherwise flown out of other cities, generating more business for the airport, taxi drivers, and hotels.

“It improves Boston’s connection to the world,’’ Menino said. “It helps us commercially, it helps us culturally, it makes us a better global citizen.’’

Massachusetts had the highest percentage of international college freshmen of any state in the country in the 2009-2010 school year, according to the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts — the majority of them coming from India, China, Korea, Canada, and Japan. The association found the economic impact of these students on the state economy is more than $1 billion.

The ease of having a nonstop flight from Tokyo will make Boston a more attractive place for students and their families, said Richard Doherty, president of the association. “When parents are able to put a student on a plane and know that the plane’s going to land, that the next stop is the city they’re supposed to be in, that’s a huge relief,’’ he said.

Boston will be the sixth US city served by Japan Airlines — in addition to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Honolulu — and the first North American city added in 13 years.

Reservations for next year’s flights can be made through Japan Airlines starting tomorrow. In June, tickets can also be purchased through American Airlines. Japan Airlines is also in talks to partner with JetBlue Airways, Logan’s largest carrier.

The Boston-Tokyo flights will be on a 200-seat Boeing 787, a much-anticipated aircraft expected to take to the skies this year. Boston is the first city to which Japan Airlines has said it will fly the 787. The plane’s size, range, and ability to take off with a full load of fuel makes it uniquely suitable to fly profitably nonstop between Boston and major Asian cities.

“We are excited to provide this inaugural direct link between Boston and Asia and bringing greater convenience to our customers,’’ said Hiroyuki Hioka, senior vice president for Japan Airlines in the Americas.

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