ANA Business Jet has launched services, providing onward travel in the USA for the airline's premium passengers using a pair of Honda Aircraft HA-420 HondaJets.
The light-twins will initially serve ANA customers flying from Tokyo to Chicago O'Hare and Los Angeles International airports, but Honda Aircraft chief executive Michimasa Fujino says a third US city will be added to the high-end offering before the end of the year, along with an additional HondaJet in 2019.
Greensboro, North Carolina-based Honda Aircraft has an agreement with ANA – a partnership between All Nippon Airways parent ANA Holdings and trading house Sojitz, both Japanese – to support the operation, including establishing a ground support framework at a number of the airline's transit locations.
The service will eventually be expanded to Europe and Japan, and forms part of the aircraft manufacturer's strategy to broaden the base of business jet users and stimulate sales of the six-seat type, which entered service in December 2015.
Flight Fleets Analyzer records a global fleet of 94 HondaJets, with production running at around four to five aircraft per month. "We want to get as many people as possible using business aircraft," says Fujino.
Initiatives include developing partnerships with other carriers to provide VIP feeder and charter services. Fujino argues that such arrangements provide an ideal introduction to business aviation for high-end airline passengers, and potentially offer a new route to market for business jet manufacturers.
"We are also looking to develop innovative business models for the HondaJet," says Fujino – including variations of the air taxi and time-sharing concepts.
The introduction in May of the Elite variant of the HondaJet has triggered significant interest from commercial operators, as well as private and business owners, he says.
The first major revamp of the HondaJet since the type entered service includes an auxiliary fuel tank to increase range by 230nm (426km) to 1,440nm, a 45kg (100lb) rise in maximum take-off weight to 4,860kg and a revamped interior that adds a fifth passenger seat.
"It is proving a very popular model," says Fujino, adding that production will transition to the Elite in 2019 after the completion of around 100-110 examples of the baseline version.
Honda Aircraft is also seeking to create demand for the aircraft in "greenfield markets" such as China, India and Japan.
While the latter is home to its Honda Motors parent, it is proving a tough market to penetrate, Fujino says. "Few people know business jets or even how to charter business jets, as there is no culture for this form of transportation," he says.
ANA Business Jet will help to increase exposure to the HondaJet in Japan, but the country's poor business aviation infrastructure and restrictive aviation policies continue to hamper industry growth. Key concerns are a lack of slots, hangarage and parking at popular airports such as Toyko's Narita and Haneda hubs.
The Honda brand carries some influence, Fujino admits, and with the help of its local distributor, Marubeni Aerospace, the company hopes to have made significant progress before Japan hosts the Olympic Games in 2020, where an increase in VIP aircraft traffic is expected.
Source: Flight International