In a major boost to Star Alliance’s presence in the Mexico to Asia market, Japan’s All Nippon Airways (NH) has announced new services beginning in 2017 from Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City to Tokyo Narita.
Effective February 17, new daily flights will operate from Tokyo Narita to Mexico City on NH’s long haul configured 787 aircraft, also making this route the longest flight the airline flies throughout their network.
Up until this announcement, Star Alliance essentially had no real presence in this market in general, with SkyTeam’s Aeromexico being the sole operator in Latin America to Asia. If ANA can link up with fellow Star partner Copa’s (CM) operations in Mexico and use CM’s massive hub in Panama City for further connections in the region and further south it could be a huge boon for Star fliers and another option for folks even based in the US for cheaper tickets to Asia from MEX.
ANA is looking to start strong from the get go with immediate daily flights, with the schedule looking like:
NH180 NRT-MEX 1640-1355 788
NH179 MEX-NRT 0100-0635 788
All Nippon Airways has various configurations on their 787-8 aircraft:
- One for regional flights within the 6 hour bracket that features lie-flat beds in Business Class and a 3-3-3 configuration in Economy that’s a bit more dense and with a bit less legroom.
- One for domestic flights within Japan with a very dense configuration and older type recliner seats in their domestic premium cabin
- One for their long haul operations, with a very low density layout and premium heavy configuration totaling only 169 total seats with fully flat staggered aisle access beds in Business, a premium economy cabin and a more spacious economy cabin.
NH will be operating their long haul 787 for this flight, indicating that they will be anticipating a lot of premium demand with this flight – bad news for AM because ANA will trump them on their service and hard product any day of the week.
The extra good news is that since ANA will be operating their premium product on this new route, not only will Star elites have much more availability to NH Business Class seats which are industry leading, but even if booked in Economy will have access to ANA’s stellar Premium Economy product should it not be sold out. NH has a liberal policy in this cabin – if by the time online check in opens and seats are not sold out, anyone holding Star Gold status and above can opt to select a seat in this cabin and enjoy the perks of some upgraded service and more space, always a good thing on a flight of this length. With 24 seats to choose from, it might be difficult to snag one of these seats but the option is always a good one – just check in right when the seat map opens up!
Let’s also not forget that the early afternoon arrival in Mexico means the possibility of a rather productive day ahead or of connections to other cities within the region. Conversely, the late night departure and early arrival into Japan means the ability to get a full day of business done or to fly in from another far flung destination and also the additional options of connecting to the vast array of flights ANA offers to various points in Asia from their Narita hub.
To be honest we’re a bit surprised that ANA’s first venture into Latin America begins with MEX rather than fellow Star partner Copa’s massive hub in PTY – but hey, where there’s demand there shall be a flight. For far too long Aeromexico has had a stranglehold in this apparently lucrative market, especially since Japan Airlines discontinued their MEX flights (albeit via Toronto) about 10 years ago now.
We tend to think this flight will be a massive success for NH and will prove to be hard to deal with for AM on their Asia operations. We also appreciate – even considering the detour – that we might have better redemption options to Asia via a Skytrax 5 Star carrier especially given how hard it is to redeem miles on an NH flight from the continental US.
Would you be willing to take a 3-4 hour detour down south to sample ANA’s premium product across the Pacific? To this weary traveler, it’s well worth it.