The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Airlines boosting food shipments to offset decline in passengers

- The Yomiuri Shimbun

Airlines are expanding the scope of their business operations to ship marine and agricultur­al products directly from regional areas. Air freighting has a distinct speed advantage over road and rail when it comes to transporti­ng products from Hokkaido, Kyushu and other regions to urban areas, and products arrive in very fresh condition. Industry observers are now wondering if the airlines can generate solid revenues from this new area as they struggle to cope with deteriorat­ing returns due to the decline in passenger numbers caused by the coronaviru­s pandemic.

Since late June, Japan Airlines Co. has used passenger aircra to deliver to Tokyo supermarke­ts about 2 tons of

Hokkaido-caught scallops. A er being shucked locally in the morning, the scallops are on store shelves the following day. e scallops are not frozen during transit, so they retain their rm texture.

“[Air-freighting] is about 10% more costly, but the quality and freshness of the scallops are competitiv­e enough,” said a representa­tive of a Tokyo-based Keio store, which uses the air freight service.

e scallops’ packaging features a sticker bearing the Japan Airlines logo and the phrase “Delivered from the sky.”

e fresh scallops are growing in popularity, the Keio representa­tive said.

e airline intends to increase the number of products it handles this way.

“Major shipping companies can’t transport all the perishable goods from regional areas,” said Japan Airlines President Yuji Akasaka. “Looking ahead, we want to o er this service overseas, too.”

In January, ANA Holdings Inc. establishe­d a company called Nihon Sanchoku Kuyu, which transports goods from production areas by air. With a tagline that runs “Freshness by the fastest possible shipping,” the company delivers such regional products as seafood, vegetables and owers to the Tokyo metropolit­an area.

Ekubofarm, an organic vegetable producer based in Kagoshima Prefecture, uses the service. President Tatsuya Kubo said: “anks to the air freight service, we can deliver fresh, high-quality products from Kagoshima to Tokyo. If we only sold locally, the goods would be swamped by other products. But in Tokyo, we can di erentiate our products.”

Solaseed Air Inc. based in Miyazaki uses its own vehicles to collect perishable and other products in the city, before loading them onto ights bound for Haneda Airport. e rm’s employees then use the road network to deliver the goods, thus o ering an integrated air-and-land transport service.

e airline industry has seen a sharp decline in passengers due to the pandemic. Japan Airlines and ANA both posted yearly losses for the business year that ended March, marking the second consecutiv­e year of de cit.

e airlines hope that by entering the direct shipping business they can raise awareness of regional products, thus helping to boost tourist numbers and create a positive impact on their core business.

“Demand for direct shipping is high and will continue to grow,” said Megumi Yoshima, a senior researcher at the Distributi­on Economics Institute of Japan. “However, securing personnel to transport products from airports to delivery destinatio­ns will be a challenge as the volume of shipped products increases.” (July 30)

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