Japan Airlines fleet in 2021

For an airline with a substantial global presence, Japan Airlines flies a relatively small number of types of aircraft. Overall, Japan Airlines operates eight different types of aircraft with 155 aircraft in total. This makes Japan Airlines a fairly small airline in terms of fleet size. But in terms of brand presence and recognition, Japan Airlines is hitting way above its weight.

Japan Airlines operates 155 aircraft comprising both Boeings and Airbuses. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Theft

Japan Airlines maintains a small fleet of eight different types of aircraft

According to data from ch-aviation, Japan Airlines has eight Airbus A350-900s in its fleet with 23 more to be delivered (consisting of 10 Airbus A350-900 and 13 Airbus A350-1000). The airline also owns 19 Boeing 777s including 13 Boeing 777-300ERs and six Boeing 777-200ERs. However, Japan Airlines is also reducing its Boeing 777 fleet. In the near future, the Airbus A350 will be the flagship aircraft and the airline’s largest aircraft.

The airline also has a fleet of 29 Boeing 767-300ERs and a pair of 767-300s. The average age of the Boeing 767s is 14.4 years. A little more contemporary are the 49 Boeing 787 Dreamliners from Japan Airlines. They have 27 Boeing 787-8 and 22 Boeing 787-9 with an average age of just five years. Two Dreamliners have already left the Japan Airlines fleet. They were sent to Zipair, a 100% subsidiary of Japan Airlines.

Shifting to narrow-body planes, Japan Airlines operates 48 Boeing 737-800s. The unglamorous 737-800 is the workhorse of the Japan Airlines fleet, serving short-haul domestic and international routes in North Asia.

A Japan Airlines Boeing 767. Photo: Boeing

A switch to Airbus at the expense of Boeing?

In terms of future orders, Japan Airlines is focusing on the A350s. When the last A350 arrives at Japan Airlines, the airline will have 31 in its fleet. The order goes back several years, but the first A350-900 did not land until June 2019. The A350-900s are intended for high frequency domestic flights while the larger A350-1000 will fly on the international network long-haul from Japan Airlines.

The order is interesting because while the A350 is a nice plane, Japan Airlines is a very Boeing-focused airline. Although it has already operated a fleet of long-retired Airbus A300s, the A350 is only the second type of Airbus to fly for Japan Airlines in its 70-year history.

In contrast, Japan Airlines operated 23 types of Boeing aircraft, although many of these types of models belong to the same Boeing family. For example, Japan Airlines has flown 11 different types of 747s, four different types of Boeing 767s, and four versions of the 777.

Japan Airlines also ordered 32 Mitsubishi M90 SpaceJets in 2015 (with a delivery ETA of 2021). But with the SpaceJet program on hiatus and its future uncertain, it’s very unclear whether Japan Airlines (or any other airline) will ever deliver. Most aircraft databases seem to think no, after quietly excluding the SpaceJet from their delivery records.

Japan Airlines will fly 31 Airbus A350s. Photo: Airbus

Japan Airlines favors owning aircraft for rental

Like many long-established traditional carriers, Japan Airlines owns the majority of its aircraft, with the airline opposing the contemporary trend in aircraft leasing. According to ch-aviation, of its 155 jets, only 20 planes are rented. Of these 20 leased aircraft, 18 lease contracts relate to Boeing 737-800s. These leases are distributed around eight leasing companies, including Avolon, Macquarie Air Finance and DAE Capital.

Japan Airlines also leases a single Boeing 787-9 and 767-300ER. The Dreamliner, JA873J, comes from SMBC Aviation Capital. The old Boeing 767, JA616J, comes from Sojitz Aircraft Leasing.

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