Japan Airlines Adjusts Flights Due To Sumo Wrestlers

Japan Airlines Adjusts Flights Due To Sumo Wrestlers


Last week, Japan Airlines added an extra flight to its schedule at the very last minute, for a rather unusual reason.

Sumo wrestlers cause Japan Airlines operational issues

This past weekend, there was a sumo wrestler competition on Amami Oshima Island, in Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture. On Thursday, October 12, 2023, dozens of sumo wrestlers were booked to fly on one of two flights to Amami (ASJ), both operated by Boeing 737-800s — one flight was JL659 from Tokyo Haneda (HND), and the other flight was JL2465 from Osaka Itami Airport (ITM).

In the hours leading up to the flights, Japan Airlines’ operations team noticed the number of sumo wrestlers booked on these flights. It sounds like they had just been booked as “standard” passengers, when ordinarily the procedure is for them to book through a special department, so that the airline can adjust its operation accordingly.

After doing some research and crunching some numbers, Japan Airlines’ operations department decided that the flights couldn’t operate as planned.

For flight planning purposes, Japan Airlines uses an average weight of 70 kilograms (154 pounds) per adult passenger. However, the airline identified that the sumo wrestlers booked on the flight weigh an average of 120 kilograms, over 70% more than the average weight used.

As a result, the airline had to adjust its math for load planning, and determined that neither of the above flights could carry all passengers and cargo that were booked. This was apparently a combination of factors, including the fairly short runway in Amami, anticipated fuel consumption, cargo that was being carried, and more.

Furthermore, due to the runway length in Amami, upgrading the flight to a larger aircraft wasn’t an option. As a result, Japan Airlines got creative, and came up with a rather costly solution.

The flight couldn’t be upgraded to a larger aircraft

Japan Airlines adds special flight for sumo wrestlers

The night prior to the flight, Japan Airlines made an interesting operational decision — the airline decided to operate an extra flight from Tokyo Haneda to Amami, exclusively for sumo wrestlers. So the airline rebooked some of the sumo wrestlers on each of these flights on a new flight on October 12, JL4677. This meant that some sumo wrestlers had to first fly from Itami to Haneda (a route with fewer operational concerns), to connect onto this flight.

This extra flight had a total of 27 sumo wrestlers onboard, so I imagine that was a more comfortable experience for everyone involved. The flight ended up departing Tokyo Haneda on Thursday at 1:34PM, arriving in Amami at 3:31PM, after a roughly two hour flight. The aircraft then returned to Tokyo Haneda empty, so that was quite a costly route addition for Japan Airlines.

Japan Airlines’ extra flight for sumo wrestlers

A Japan Airlines spokesperson explained that “it is extremely unusual for us to operate special flights due to the weight restrictions on this aircraft,” but clearly this was one of those situations.

Bottom line

Airline operations are complicated under the best of circumstances, let alone when you have a bunch of sumo wrestlers traveling to a competition. In an incident that occurred late last week, several sumo wrestlers were traveling to a competition, and Japan Airlines determined that the booked passengers would have exceeded the operational limits of the aircraft for this flight.

As a result, the airline added an extra flight at the last minute exclusively for sumo wrestlers. The oneworld carrier states that this is incredibly rare, and presumably it comes down to the fairly short runway at the destination, possible diversion points, etc.

What do you make of this extra Japan Airlines flight?

Conversations (23)
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  1. Derek Guest

    That's pretty cool. I would imagine US domestic airlines would just bump the excess sumo wrestlers until whenever the next flight is. Or bump all of them, then sell the tickets at 5x the cost they were originally booked at, and sell them to other passengers.

    1. Charlie Diamond

      It wouldn’t be a problem in the US as the average weight of a sumo wrestler is probably the same as an average American

  2. yehuda Kovesh MD Guest

    25 % of Americans weigh over 250 lbs or thereabouts. when i enter USA on my monthly visits, even after 20 years, i am amazed at the size of the passengers. On a recent transit through ATL there were hardly anyone of anywhere normal weight.
    It is truly a public health problem

  3. Leigh Diamond

    I'm wondering/assuming each had to book 2 seats for the flights?

    1. Kelley P Diamond

      How'd you like to sit in a middle seat between two of these guys?? Yikes.

  4. globetrotter Guest

    That's what booze, fast foods and inactivity do to the body. How can anyone justifies allowing a body to get that heavy? Utterly unhealthy. We all know that no US mega-businesses will voluntarily accept the losses to cater to the needs of their customers.

    1. Michael Guest

      You know that Sumo Wrestler isn't fat right? They like are actually ridiculously fit and only have very minimal actual body fat

    2. Derek Guest

      A little bit of fat and a little bit of fit. They still die in their 40s and 50s because of the toll the excess weight takes on their body. But they are athletes, it's not like they're cramming down pastries while watching daytime soaps

    3. Kelley P Diamond

      They're still BIG

    4. ImmortalSynn Guest

      "You know that Sumo Wrestler isn't fat right?"

      I hate to refer to something as generally flawed as BMI, but once you get to a certain level of excess weight, it doesn't really matter if it's fat, muscle, or anything else. It's still increased strain on the heart, other organs, and especially joints, and will result in inevitable health issues.

  5. Syd Guest

    Japan is such a cool place and culture!

  6. A_Japanese Gold

    FYI, average weight of Japanese adults (20 years old and over, 2019 by Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare)

    Male: 67.4kg (148.6 pounds)
    Female 53.6kg (118.2 pounds)

    Average weight of American adults
    (Same age, 2018 by Centers for Disease Control)

    Male: 90.6kg (199.8 pounds)
    Female: 77.5kg 170.8 pounds

    FAA base passenger weight (including cloths) is 190-195 lbs for adult male and 170-175 lbs for adult female.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      A discriminatory stereotype that is still politically correct.

    2. vbscript2 Guest

      An average is a fact, not a stereotype. Suggesting that everyone weighed the average would be a stereotype, but using the averages as averages is not. Assuming that person A weighs more than person B because A is male would also be stereotyping, but just stating the averages for each gender or using them as averages isn't.

    3. staradmiral Guest

      Average american female 77.5kg 170.8 pounds.
      This is why men should look for foreign brides, nuff said.

    4. ImmortalSynn Guest


      Meh, who likes bones, other than a dog?

    5. Ross Guest

      Can't get much more meaningless without also stating the average height

    6. A_Japanese Gold

      Good point.

      Average height of Japanese adults (same source)

      Male: 166.7cm (65.6inch)
      Female: 154.3cm (60.7 inch)

      Average height of American adults (same source)

      Male: 175cm (69 inch)
      Female: 161.3cm (63.5 inch)

  7. Wira Guest

    Runway in Amami Airport were only 2000 Meter long, understandably Boeing B737-800 need longer runway to land if they accommodate the Sumo wrestler which cause more heavy weight than usual. Tokyo to Amami also pretty long flight for Japanese standard, means need extra calculation too determine how much weight can accommodate to reach Amami from Tokyo without fuel diversion.

  8. Sara Smith Guest

    120 kg. seems about right for the average American, lol.

  9. Gregg Guest

    120kg (260lbs)? That’s the weight of the average midwestern adult here in US!

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The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Gregg Guest

120kg (260lbs)? That’s the weight of the average midwestern adult here in US!

Watson Diamond

Gonna do me some sumo rassling!

Syd Guest

Japan is such a cool place and culture!

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