The Latest On Miami Airport’s Quest For A Nonstop Flight To Asia

Filed Under: ANA, Japan Airlines

Airports spend a lot of time and money trying to attract new airlines, especially from regions without much service. For example, while airports like JFK and LAX don’t have to do anything to attract airlines, airports like San Diego and Portland might work to attract flights to Europe, while airports like Miami and Pittsburgh (lol) might work to attract flights from Asia.

This brings us to something that has been ongoing for years. For years and years and years, Miami Airport has been working on attracting a nonstop flight to Asia. For these purposes we’re excluding Qatar’s flight to Doha and EL AL’s flight to Tel Aviv — while those are technically in Asia, we’re talking about North/East Asia flights.

In the past Miami Airport had a task force for this purpose, and it sure seems like the airport is consistently quite optimistic about attracting an Asian carrier. The argument is that Miami is the busiest US market for leisure and business travel from Asia that doesn’t have nonstop passenger service.

In 2016 they were targeting Japan Airlines, China Airlines, Asiana Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific, Air China, Korean Air, EVA Air, and Hainan Airlines.

Then this spring, the CEO of Miami Convention and Visitors’ Bureau said that he expected Japan Airlines would launch flights within a couple of years:

“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.”

So, what’s the latest on that? Per a story in Miami Today, little progress has been made according to the county aviation marketing director.

He says the situation has worsened with China, so he no longer expects a nonstop flight from Miami to mainland China:

“[With] China, things have gotten a little more difficult. There are terms of our [bilateral agreement] the US is claiming that China is not adhering to, and it has brought the two countries to an impasse. Until [those] accusations are straightened out, it’s highly doubtful we’re going to see any additional service into the United States by carriers.”

That’s not accurate at all (LAX continues to get more nonstop flights from China, among other airports). But I guess for these purposes it’s true that Miami Airport is unlikely to get nonstop flights to China. 😉

Similarly, he thinks a nonstop from Taipei on China Airlines or EVA Air is unlikely, as he thinks the supposed worsening situation with China also impacts that.

So at this point Miami Airport is betting on a nonstop flight from Japan, either by ANA or JAL, to launch maybe halfway through 2020 (and yes, he’s just pulling that timeline out of his you-know-what):

“My best guess – and we’re hoping to sit down with them in January, if all goes well – is we’ll probably get a commitment from them [the] second or third quarter of 2019 [for] service a year later – maybe [halfway] or two-quarters through 2020. It would be a good catch for us.”

Between ANA and JAL, JAL would be the natural choice, given that Miami is a oneworld hub, and that American and Japan Airlines have a transpacific joint venture.

I still think it’s highly unlikely this will actually happen. JAL is conservative with their growth, and a flight to Miami would be their longest route yet. Could a flight like this work? I imagine so, yes.

However, if it hasn’t happened yet, I just feel like it’s not going to happen. When you look at the global economy and fuel prices we had a couple of years back, it seemed like if there was ever a time the route would be launched, it would have been then. Maybe I just have a bleak outlook, but for the time being I don’t think the best of days are ahead for global aviation, so I just don’t see this risky route being added.

Yes, there’s certainly some merit to easier connectivity between Asia and Latin America with a route like this. However, many points in Latin America can already be reached with JAL’s flight to Dallas, as American has a lot of flights to Latin America from there.

So not surprisingly, the latest update with Miami’s hope of getting an Asia flight is that there’s no update. Just optimism, though less optimism then they had a few years ago, given that they now seem to realize that a Japan nonstop is the only shot they have.

Do you think Miami will get a nonstop flight to Japan in the coming years?

Comments
  1. I wouldn’t laugh too hard at PIT. Other midsize markets would probably do anything to have the international flights PIT has.

  2. On a different note, Lucky, you should write about your experience on JAL. I want to see how much you are biased towards JAL and especially JAL first class, and I hope to see at least one ANA F or J trip report in the next five years, compared to the 10+ JAL F+J trip reports you are likely to churn out.

  3. If the goal is to connect latin america to Japan, Miami is actually a bit of a detour compared to DFW or LAX. A flight from Tokyo to Lima via DFW is almost 1300 miles shorter than the same route via Miami.

    I suppose there are routes to Latin America that are only available out of Miami, I’m not sure if there is that much demand for those specific routes.

    Also, for many destinations in southern latin america, it could be viable to go to asia via europe with roughly the same travel distance. For example, a flight to Montevideo to Narita via Madrid is only 1000 miles more than Montevideo to Narita via Miami.

  4. On a different note, Lucky, I’d like to hear about your recent experience on JAL, because I want to know whether you are still biased towards JAL, and I hope you give ANA F (or J) at least one try in the next five years, compared to the gazillion times you are going to fly Asian Oneworld airlines in F or J (specifically QR and JAL. Cathay, not so much). ANA, I feel, deserves its 5-star rating as much as JAL, if not more.

  5. @Chris Topher- PIT is doing pretty well overall. But the idea that their market could support flights to Asia, especially when you have so many options from DTW, MSP and YYZ (all of which are relatively non-congested airports almost directly on the way)? Seems unlikely.

  6. My guess is that if American can’t make it work, Japan won’t. AA’s hub is Miami and they could launch a flight from there.

  7. AA has done a great job in managing the MIA-DFW-Asia connections. Prior to that, it was quite difficult to get to Asia quickly. With these new connections through DFW and the ability to get to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai and Seoul specifically coupled with the difficulty in proving the financials of this route will work, I do not see it happening anytime soon.

  8. Miami does not have a Japanese community. Zero demand on that level. They would have to depend entirely on leisure and business travel of which the demand is not enough

  9. I think AA would have by now launched a flight atleast to Japan from MIA if they saw demand/viability for it.

  10. To answer your question. No. I can’t see it work. Miami doesn’t have the market for a direct flight to Japan like the west coast does.

  11. I doubt organized carriers like JAL or ANA would have any appetite for a not so well managed airport like MIA.
    Furthermore any US airport is unsuitable for transit traffic as they cannot yet handle sterile transfers and thus require visa, and exposure to unpleasant or worse border handling experiences

  12. Miami is useless for connections from Asia since no matter where in the Americas you are heading, you’d have to detour or backtrack. (OK, maybe Cancun works). LAX or DFW are far superior.

    ME3 makes far more sense, and one-stop to-from Asia.

  13. Just adding on, while Miami is a big leisure market, I don’t see it being a big one for tourists originating in Asia. There are plenty of beach/holiday destinations in SE Asia, (not to mention Hawaii, Australia, India even?) that are much more convenient. (Can’t speak to the cruise market, but perhaps there is growth there??) There are already plenty of one stop options on AA via DFW/ORD, Delta via DET/ATL, UA via EWR/IAH/IAD.

  14. Why would any Japanese person have the slightest interest in going to Florida? The Japanese are not stupid. For leisure travel, they have hundreds of destinations across SE Asia and Pacific that are infinitely more attractive than (cough cough) Florida. Why fly to the other side of the world for a third-rate resort destination when so many great destinations are relatively close by?

    Those idiots running MIA must be smoking something…

  15. MIA is out of the way for any connecting travel to Asia from literally anywhere. And even Chicago, with all it’s feed is seeing less direct flights to Asia.

    Connecting from MIA via ORD or MSP to Toyo adds <40 miles on a great circle. Very little to be gained from direct flights.

  16. CX have been operating a HKG-MIA cargo flight for a while now and yet they didn’t sense the need to operate a passenger flight on this route. If CX and AA felt they could not make an Asian route from MIA work, I doubt JL would think differently.

  17. Having worked in the tourism business in Florida (and handling the Japanese market for a few years) there is significant demand for direct service to Florida. Miami and Orlando are huge markets (with the Caribbean falling not too far behind). The challenges for the last 20+ years has been the lack of an aircraft that could do this route and fuel process. I think the right bird and the right fuel process could make this possible. It seems as though the right aircraft is available – so I wouldn’t be so quick to swat this away. Just my 2 cents (and donning my flame proof Christmas attire!).

  18. Leisure? If I were a Japanese, those Oceana islands are enough for me to spend enough time on that. For Caribbean Sea, why not go via those tones of European destinations instead? MIA is just not necessary for one-stop transfer to cities larger than BSB.

  19. Would I like to see it happen. Sure.

    Do I think it will. A lot less doubt.

    Most people I know if they were to try and go to Asia would probably prefer the stop in LAX/DFW than a non stop. Or if your going from FLL you have Emirates right there to DXB and then another long haul to the far east..same in MIA with Qatar (oneWorld) partner. It would be nice..but realistically I don’t think it would be very viable.

  20. To me it seems that MCO would be a very large leisure market from several East Asian cities. I wonder why hasn’t KAL or JAL or ANA expressed interest in this route.

  21. JAL three-class 788 at 161 seats is the least densely configured aircraft capable of transpacific flights. MIA and HND/NRT are both oneworld hubs. If JAL has no interest for NRT/HND-MIA then I don’t see any carrier in Far East having interest in flying to MIA.

  22. I think Asia-MCO makes more sense because of DisneyWorld. AA used to have #61 MIA-(DFW)-NRT. Miami is the largest passenger cruise port in the world. Maybe because I live in MIA, I don’t find the airport that bad. It’s certainly easier than JFK, LHR, LAX. Just some random thoughts.

  23. @Stuart, Qatar flies MIA-DOH though.

    As someone based in NE Asia with family in Miami, I’ve been watching this closely for years. I really hoped JAL could make this work with the very sparsely configurated 787. OW is the only real way to get between NE Asia and MIA as is. Delta is predominantly going to FLL and *A is a verifiable clusterf. Imagine trying to fly Asiana into JFK but all of United’s connecting flights are out of EWR. Lol. Asiana ORD flight arrives to late to catch a connection. Lol. Only option is NH into IAH.

  24. MIA does well with non-stops to Europe and Latin America. As someone living in Sarasota I will drive to MIA for a cheap non-stop flight to Europe. I also go there for non-stops to South America and the Caribbean. Why would I drive across Alligator alley when I can connect easily from the West coast of Florida to almost any major Asian market through ATL, DTW, SEA, or LAX on new planes? MIA is also not exactly a pleasant airport.

  25. @Asian Miler

    Cathay has been saying publicly for several years they want to start a nonstop service to MIA, and they have the capability now with their A350 aircraft. The fact that they haven’t yet started it suggests they are having more trouble than they originally thought making sense of the economics. There is a fair amount of leisure demand from Asia to MIA but of course you need heavy premium demand to make such a long route work, and so my guess is they are unsure they will have that.

    @Matt there is a lot of Japanese leisure demand for Florida. They love these mid range American-style resorts. Have you ever been to Guam? It’s like Florida of the Pacific.

  26. In my view, the only point of having a non-stop flight from East Asia to MIA would be the feed of Latin American destinations provided by AA. There is, for sure demand for travel between Florida and Asia, but i do not think it is enough to sustain such flight, especially considering the amount of convenient one-stop options.
    There is a HUGE asian community in South America, particulary in Brazil, which holds the largest japanese community outside Asia, which could bennefit from a non-stop from Florida to Asia given the large Latin American network of AA. The problem is the visa requirement for transiting through the US (for the record, one of the reasons for JAL cancelling it’s NRT-JFK-GRU route back in 2010), which makes travelling through Europe or the Middle East much more convenient. Unfortunately, giving the amount of one-stop competition, I do not see this route happening

  27. Unbeknowst to many that Miami has been trying to attain downtown gaming in a big way, but have met opposition. It looks that they will achieve it but not as large as they first planned.
    They are looking for Asia direct flights the same way Las Vegas did years ago from Japan.

    I think its sad for Miami, but they are struggling thru one period after the next. They’ve had huge investments from Russians, then Brazilians and then and then, but political changes in those countries caused sell offs.

    They looked at Pittsburgh and thought to do the same with gaming.

  28. No. I can fly AA-JAL from south america to Asia thru DFW or LAX. There ll never be a 3rd option with the same carriers.

  29. Between the nearby Disney resorts, the nearby Caribbean with its dozens of destinations, the cruises from Miami, and Miami Beach itself, and knowing how much the Japanese love to travel and their love of all things American (I should know I’m married to one), it makes all the sense in the world to have a direct from Miami to Tokyo, even if just 3x a week. And it would attract a lot of Koreans, Taiwanese, Chinese, and SE Asians as well. Everyone in Asia has heard of Miami, most have never been bc of logistics. I hope it happens.

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