Could Japan Airlines Start Flying To Miami Next Year?

Filed Under: Japan Airlines

For years there have been rumors of Miami getting a nonstop commercial flight to Asia. The airport has actively been soliciting such flights, and has offered airlines that would be willing to operate these routes all kinds of incentives.

On the surface you’d think American would be the natural choice for operating a route out of Miami to Asia, given that they’re the airport’s biggest airline, and also given that they have such an extensive route network out of Miami. However, American hasn’t expressed much interest in operating such a flight. I can’t really blame them, given how much capacity they already offer to Asia, so they can easily funnel people through other hubs.

American planes at Miami Airport

In 2016 I wrote about how the airport set up a task force that was targeting Japan Airlines, China Airlines, Asiana Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific, Air China, Korean Air, EVA Air, and Hainan Airlines. Unfortunately for Miami, it looks like no carrier has expressed much interest yet.

At one point there were rumors of Cathay Pacific adding flights to Miami

The Miami Herald has an interesting update on this front. Specifically, William Talbert, the CEO of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors’ Bureau had some comments about this at the annual State of the Tourism Industry meeting a few days go:

“We are confident that sooner, rather than later, you are going to see direct air service from Tokyo to Miami, Florida. Next year, I will be standing here and we will have the head of Japan Airlines and we will have done the inaugural.”

In the past all we’ve heard is that they’re trying to woo airlines, and they didn’t really narrow it down to a single airline. On one hand it seems like a higher level of certainty when they narrow it down to one airline and one route. Also, saying “I will be standing here and we will have the head of Japan Airlines and we will have done the inaugural” is a pretty certain statement.

Unfortunately for him (and Miami), I suspect he may be overly optimistic here. It has more or less been confirmed that Japan Airlines plans to add a new route to Seattle by next year, which is the only US expansion that they’ve hinted at. Japanese airlines are extremely conservative — they don’t capacity dump and open routes just to beat competitors to the punch. So personally I think this route remains unlikely, especially as it would be JAL’s longest route, at about 7,500 miles.

Why is there so little interest from Asian airlines in operating flights to Miami? Transpacific fares are as cheap as they’ve ever been in economy, and it’s really tough for airlines to make money on these routes. So the only real way to make money on transpacific flights is to either charge a premium for a nonstop in a market with a lot of demand, and/or to sell a lot of premium cabin tickets with good yields. Based on what we know here:

  • The city in Asia with the most demand out of Miami is Manila, and that can already be reached with one stop (not to mention it’s probably leisure traffic, so not very profitable)
  • While Miami is the gateway to Latin America, most destinations in Latin America can also be reached nonstop from another major US hub, so it’s not entirely clear that there are huge time savings for those connecting
  • With Qatar flying to Miami and Emirates flying to Fort Lauderdale, you can now fly to South Florida with one stop from just about anywhere
  • If there were an airline that could make a Miami to Asia route work, it would have to be a oneworld airline, due to the potential for connecting traffic

Japan Airlines 777

Given the current fare environment on transpacific flights, this just doesn’t seem like a winner at the moment, especially given the distance of the flight we’re talking about. It’s not a coincidence that no airline has taken the bait yet.

What do you think — is Miami just overly optimistic here, or will we see a nonstop flight between Tokyo and Miami?

  1. There’s also the huge headache of having to clear immigration in the US even if you are connecting internationally from an international flight. That creates less desirable connect times compared to other alternatives and also doesn’t allow people without a US visa to transit the US. Miami will be really hard to make work if you assume 50+ % of Brazil and Argentina don’t have the visas to transit

  2. Probably overly optimistic based on all of your points but as a Miami resident…..huge if it happened!

  3. @Mark Love this. This is perhaps the greatest aspect to why the US has not become a hub center for furthering Intl. connections. I have long thought what is being missed for carriers here is a Euro/ME/Asian system of transfers. If I were traveling from, say, HKG to GRU I would much rather connect anywhere than the U.S given the lack of a seamless and easy transfer. I can not even imagine the Hub Miami or LA would become if a more “global” system of transfers were developed. And, as Mark says, add the Visa issue for many and it is impossible under the current system.

  4. It’s a pretty interesting route for traffic from Latin America. It is true that connecting in the US between two international flights is quite a hassle, especially when you can connect via AMS, CDG or FRA from most major cities (Amsterdam being my personal favorite, its such a nice airport and KL beats AF and LH in service).

    However I don’t thinks visas will be a problem. Most of Latin Americans need visas for Japan, and given the potential demographics, I’d say it’s pretty safe to asume most of the middle and upper classes will already have a US visa, usually a B1/B2, which allows transit. My point being, people going to Japan from Latin America will most likely already have US visas. At least that’s from my perspective as a South American.

    Also, MIA has more routes than any other North American airport. DFW, ATL and IAH will usually serve capital cities, and/or the largest cities once a day at most, and capacity is not great. For example, BOG and MDE have had their flights to DFW and ATL reduced, and UIO will lose its DFW flight next month. MEX usually has inconvenient connection times.

    MIA on the other hand has routes to lots of smaller cities in Colombia, Brazil, soon also to Argentina, and larger cities all over South America have two or more AA flights to MIA each day, even more if you consider the LATAM codeshare flights.

    Cities that would have MIA as its only gateway to Asia through North America include:

  5. +1 to Mark

    It’s a real pain to connect in the US and I avoid it at all costs…and i n my case it’s not even a visa problem since all I need is the ESTA…but having to go through security, pickup bag (bags need to be collected even if you’re going to a different country), drop bag at a different place…it sucks!

    Last time I did that was on a LIS – EWR – SCL and the whole thing took over an hour.

  6. Were you just in the new Polaris lounge at SFO? I think that was you, looked like you were doing some kind of a tour of the facility. But I’ve never met you before so not sure.

  7. Like someone said, its a pain to connect in the US. I avoid it if I can. Our US hubs are over close to capacity and it works fine during fair weather, but once weather get bad… you know the rest. The airlines overseas know our problems and trying to help us to avoid it.

  8. A Miami flight would have to, for the most part, live or die based on the ability of the city of Miami and the surrounding area to support the flight, with traffic to Japan and onto Asia. It will not exist, nor can it exist, primarily on the back of feed to/ from Latin America. The biggest cities in Latin America, the ones with the highest fares and largest concentrations of travelers, are already covered well through other gateways, both in the US, as well as Europe and the Gulf. Secondly, American really doesn’t need that traffic from JAL. It can fill those flights to Central/ South America at higher fares both locally in Miami and with the domestic feed it gets on its own metal from within the US. Given the very long stage length of a flight from Tokyo, let alone behind Tokyo, to Miami, any portion of the fare that AA would get for, say, a Miami – Sao Paulo flight, or a Miami – Quito flight as part of a Taipei-Tokyo-Miami-Quito/Sao Paulo ticket, would be way lower than if they sold it to a local passenger. Not worth it.
    Never say never of course, but there are plenty of ways to get from Asia to Miami for the local market, and from Asia to Latin America for those who could flow over Miami. There’s really nothing special that Miami offers, other than low yield traffic to the Philippines (which is primarily cruise worker traffic). It’s a crazy industry, though, and I suppose anything is possible. But I wouldn’t be holding my breath.

  9. Is there any airline (besides Qatar, Emirates) that has a one-stop flights to Manila on the same airline? Far as I know, Philippine Airlines is the only airline with Transpacific flights into Manila, and they don’t fly to Miami. Will BA, KLM, Air France or other do the trick?

  10. In 2018 it just does not make sense to think of connecting an asian carrier to MIA to reach Latin America.
    The european carriers do this in quite an effective way throughout the major cities in L. America and without the need of a visa (MEX, GRU, GIG, SCL,EZE,BOG) – BA, KL, AF, LH, IB, AZ, TK.
    You also have the M3 with their super duper connectivity – EY and QR
    Aeromexico also connects Central and South America to Asia. You also have Ethiopian with their competitive prices.
    And you also have the american carriers offering this connectivity. For instance, the GRU-DFW-HKG is a great way to go to Asia. Or GRU-LAX-ICN/NRT/HKG.

    Anyway.. I don’t see the point in doing this if one of the reasons if to reach L. America.
    Not to forget that Latam have codeshare with JL on their GRU-JFK-NRT and GRU-LHR-NRT routes.

  11. Good post. I do think that the statistic of Manila being the most common destination is skewed because Miami is the cruise capitol of the world, and many crew members are from the Philippines. For a while I worked as a travel agent in the Port of Miami, and Manila was a common crew destination. That said, there was a lot of business and leisure traffic to Japan as well.

  12. They will never be able to fill these planes consistently enough to any market in Asia. Miami just doesn’t have enough business travel demand to East Asia. Emirates is not making money on the route to Dubai from Fort Lauderdale. Miami also has the lowest Asian population on the East coast.

  13. Still waiting on an Asian carrier to come to Miami via Europe, would love to see that happening. SQ is the only carrier servicing the east coast via Europe, why shouldn’t a similar set work just fine for Miami..

  14. Maybe CX would consider via YVR.
    But Asians are interested in Orlando more than Miami, besides theme parks, more Asians living in Orlando than Miami.
    Miami is not kinda friendly to Asians, especially in language.

  15. No one with a working brain stem would opt willingly to connect through the us–it’s horrible. It’s akin to a 3rd world. Embarrassing. On the other hand, Japan is capitalistic and loves tourists. In fact, they want at least 20-25million tourists/foreigners/gaijin per year to visit. Spend money, enjoy the Kabuki, the Noh, Fuji-san, the Matsusaka etc… So if they want to load up planes with foreigners to get their capitalistic groove on–we dig it!

  16. Never expected CX to launch to HKG-IAD with no connecting oneWorld hub, but here we are. They could make it work, but as mentioned conservative mindset probably won’t get this launched anytime soon.

  17. I agree with some of the comments above that latin americans who have a Japan visa most likely already has a US visa. I recently flew NRT-JFK on JAL and there were a few Argentinians/Brazilians/Chileans on my flight connecting in JFK to their respective home countries.

  18. @Mauricio Matos

    Miami is the one airport in the US where you do not need to collect your luggage on an international transfer.

    But yes, double customs can be super annoying.

  19. Isn’t Miami too far from East or Southeast Asia to make nonstop economical? ~2-3 years ago, it was EVA that was gong to fly direct to Miami. doubt this will happen. There is no real asian communities here in Miami like other US cities with airports that receive most international passengers (NYC, LA, Chicago). I’m like the only Asian that live in Miami. I think there were also talks of Cathay adding HKG to YVR to MIA, but I guess not happening. Turkish and Qatar already flies direct from West Asia – most indian subcontinent population would route over the atlantic instead of the pacific. For asian communities in South America, I think more logical stop is west coast or NYC or Toronto.

  20. Thanks Steven. I did transit in MIA before but I honestly can’t remember. It was a few years ago.

  21. I think the key revenue driver for long haul routes should be business class passengers. Biz fares across the Pacific are never cheap. Perhaps because the middle eastern carriers don’t compete in such routes.

  22. The only correction I would make is the traffic to Manila; I believe this part to be truthful, as Qatar Airways caters disproportionately to disembarking cruise ship staff from Port of Miami and Port Everglades. However, this is not leisure travel, it’s more business-oriented.

    Source: I work as a gov’t subcontractor servicing crew leaving out of MIA.

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