JAL - Japan Airlines (JL, Tokyo Haneda) will retire all of its B777 widebodies by March 2023, replacing them with the more fuel-efficient A350, the airline announced in a business update on May 7.

The A350-1000 is the successor to the B777-300(ER) and will be launched on long-haul routes to North America and Europe in preparation for the recovery of global international demand the airline anticipates after 2024. By that date, 13 of the A350-1000s will have replaced the same number of the B777-300(ER)s that JAL currently operates.

JAL has a total firm order for thirty-one A350s including eighteen A350-900s, of which it has already taken delivery of eight according to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, and the thirteen A350-1000s. The -900s are to initially be deployed on domestic routes, replacing the carrier’s seven B777-200(ER)s.

As previously reported, JAL opted in early April to retire its fleet of PW4000-powered B777s in the wake of the February 20 United Airlines B777-200 uncontained engine failure. JAL operated a total of thirty-nine B777s as of April 2020.

The proportion of B777s and A350s in its pre-pandemic fleet stood at about 18%, a number the carrier aims to reduce to 14% by its 2023 financial year.

Japan Airlines also said in its business update that it plans to increase the number of B787s at its ZIPAIR Tokyo (ZG, Tokyo Narita) low-cost unit by two per year, reaching ten by 2025, and it will establish Spring Airlines Japan (IJ, Tokyo Narita), its joint venture with China’s Spring Airlines (9C, Shanghai Hongqiao), as a consolidated subsidiary in June 2021.

ZIPAIR currently operates a total fleet of two B787-8s, while its parent has twenty-seven of the model as well as twenty-two B787-9s. The B787s which the subsidiary will take delivery of will come from JAL’s own fleet, and the third and fourth units will be transferred later this year.

Spring Japan is majority-owned by Spring Airlines with JAL owning around 5%. JAL did not say how much it would invest or the size of the stake it was targetting, but in late April sources told the Kyodo news agency it planned to inject an additional several billion yen into the LCC to increase its stake to 51% or more.

It pledged in the business update that it would add new routes to capture demand from Chinese travellers flying to Japan, leveraging Spring Airlines’ brand recognition in China. ZIPAIR, meanwhile, will target and “create” travel demand on routes to Asia, Hawaii, and the US West Coast.

The update was issued on the same day JAL revealed that its fourth-quarter operating loss, for the three months to March 31, quadrupled year-on-year to JPY104.1 billion yen (USD956 million). It chose not to provide an earnings forecast for the new business year.