JAL keen on Latin America with right aircraft

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Japan Airlines (JAL) is interested in serving Latin America again but says it is limited by aircraft range in serving the continent non-stop.

The Oneworld carrier is particularly interested in Mexico, says its vice president global sales for the Americas Steve Smith at the Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit.

“The 787 can’t quite get there,” he says, adding that it will be difficult to serve Latin America again.

JAL had previously served Sao Paulo via New York, but axed the route as part of its financial restructuring in 2010.

The airline now serves eight destinations in North America, and Smith says it plans to add more in the USA with the Boeing 787. JAL operates 15 of the type, and flies the 787 to US cities like Boston and San Diego.

JAL is not the only carrier seeking to serve Latin America in an efficient manner. Air China had previously said it wants to operate non-stop to South America from China, but is still waiting for an aircraft to help it do so in a cost-effective manner.

Aside from JAL, Korean Air (KAL) vice president of passenger marketing and sales John Jackson says the carrier sees opportunity on routes between Venezuela and China.

KAL serves Sao Paulo from Seoul via Los Angeles, but Jackson says the need for Brazilian and Chinese passengers to obtain transit visas do not make the USA an ideal point of transfer.

“It’s no surprise that the only other two Asian airlines that fly to Latin America do it via Europe,” he says.

Air China serves Sao Paulo from Madrid, while Singapore Airlines flies to Sao Paulo from Barcelona.

In South America, Aeromexico is the only airline that serves Asia, with one-stop 787 service from Mexico City to Tokyo Narita and to Shanghai. Aeromexico operates on both routes via Tijuana but has said it will switch the stop on the Tokyo flight to Monterrey in September.