Japan Airlines to retire its domestic Boeing 777s

Japan is one of the few countries where the international-grade Boeing 777 features on domestic routes.

By David Flynn, October 30 2020
Japan Airlines to retire its domestic Boeing 777s

Japan Airlines will retire all 13 of its Boeing 777 jets dedicated to domestic routes on the back of a record US$3.6 billion annual loss.

The Japanese flag carrier said the domestic Boeing 777-200 and 777-300s would be sent off by March 2023.

Additionally, all eleven long-range Boeing 777-200ERs would be removed from JAL's international network by March 2021, although some would see out their remaining years in the domestic fleet.

While most travellers associate the Boeing 777 with trips spanning oceans and continents, both JAL and its competitor ANA have special domestic-only versions of the Boeing 777 – along with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and, in JAL's case, even the Airbus A350 – assigned to high-traffic corridors which crisscross the islands.

As Japan Airlines Chairman Yoshiharu Ueki has previously told Executive Traveller, the nation's domestic market is not only "the third biggest in the world, but our domestic and international markets are about 50% each."

As such, and in common with the US market, domestic first class is what most countries would actually categorise as 'business class'.

Meanwhile, what JAL terms 'Class J' is pitched towards the business traveller but stands closer to international premium economy.

Japan Airlines' domestic Boeing 777-300, for example, has 500 seats, divided into 78 reclining Class J seats and 422 economy class seats.

Its sibling domestic Boeing 777-200 adds 14 first class seats – still recliners ranked 2-2-2, and akin to what international first class was like many decades ago – ahead of 82 Class J seats and 279 economy seats.

Japan Airlines' domestic Boeing 777 first class (left) and Class J (right) seats.
Japan Airlines' domestic Boeing 777 first class (left) and Class J (right) seats.

With the big Boeings on the way out, JAL will lean towards its modern and more fuel-efficient domestic Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s to cover key local routes.

The A350-900s sport 12 reclining first class seats, with a wrap-around shell and sliding panel offering additional privacy...

... and 94 Class J recliners in a 2-4-2 layout.

JAL even worked with Airbus to tweak the A350-900 to make it more suitable for domestic flights.

"When JAL asked if we could make the A350 more suitable for high-frequency domestic flying we said 'but why'?", Airbus exec Christian Scherer laughingly admitted to Executive Traveller at the delivery ceremony for JAL's first A350.

It wasn't just that the A350 was "25% more efficient than the (Boeing 777) it replaces", Scherer says – it was also about introducing a world's-best experience to domestic travel.

Airbus reduced the weight of the made-for-JAL A350s, "which means you stress the airplane less because the engines have reduced take-off thrust (so in turn) you can fly higher cycles and have longer maintenance cycles."

Earlier this week rival ANA announced it would retire a total of 35 aircraft by year's end, 22 of which are Boeing 777s, while also planning to launch a new low-cost medium-range airline flying only Boeing 787s – a similar model to JAL's ZipAir.

Read more: ANA's new low-cost airline has Australia in its sights


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


03 May 2013

Total posts 668

great news.

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