JAL order may be fillip for market

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Bombardier and Embraer are competing on an order for 70- to 90-seat aircraft from Japan Airlines (JAL) that has the potential to open up the large regional jet market in Japan.

JAL issued a request for proposals (RFP) to the two manufacturers on 14 September and each was given around a month to respond. Although JAL will not say how many aircraft it is considering, industry sources say it is between 10 and 15.

The airline says that if it proceeds with an order the aircraft will be operated by its J-Air subsidiary, which already operates 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200s. It says that “the number of aircraft and the timing of their introduction is not fixed”.

However, JAL says it would be looking to introduce them ahead of the opening of a fourth runway at Tokyo’s busy Haneda airport early in 2009. The new runway is expected to allow for an increase in take-off and landing slots to 407,000 per year from 285,000.

The fourth runway will cater for more international services to be operated from the primarily domestic facility, and will also allow for smaller aircraft to serve it.

JAL says that “given the increase in slots at Haneda in 2009, we are considering introducing aircraft of this size [70- to 90-seat]”.

Only 13 50-seat regional jets currently operate in Japan with two operators and there are no 70- or 90-seaters, although both Bombardier and Embraer have long seen the Japanese market as one with considerable potential for future sales in these larger size categories.

The hope is that if JAL orders such aircraft, other airlines such as All Nippon Airways (ANA) may follow suit.

In 2003, ANA looked at placing an order for between 12 and 15 70-seat Bombardier CRJ700s or Embraer 170s, but it ultimately shelved the plan.