TOKYO -- Japan's ANA Holdings will order Boeing aircraft to substitute for the long-delayed Mitsubishi Regional Jet on domestic routes serving smaller cities.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries arm Mitsubishi Aircraft has been developing the MRJ since 2008, and initially planned to deliver the first plane to ANA in the second half of 2013. The All Nippon Airways parent had high hopes for the MRJ's fuel efficiency. But the jet has faced numerous setbacks, and ANA was forced to seek alternatives in the meantime.
To fill its place, ANA will lease four Boeing 737-800 jets, which seat around 160. The planes have a catalog price of $98.1 million, with an annual leasing fee estimated at over $4 million. The airline operator will swap the planes in for the 120-seat Boeing 737-500s it currently flies to smaller cities from airports including those in and around Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka.
With its passenger jets aging, ANA could not afford to wait for the MRJ to update its fleet. It already flies over 30 Boeing 737-800s. But those jets seat more passengers than the MRJ does, raising the risk of unsold seats. Wary of the potential hit, ANA will look to pick up demand from foreigners visiting Japan, as well as in other areas.
ANA last summer ordered three propeller-powered planes from Canada's Bombardier to address the delay. But in January Mitsubishi Aircraft further postponed the MRJ's delivery, pushing it back from mid-2018 to mid-2020, sending ANA scrambling for more substitutes. The airline operator may ask Mitsubishi Aircraft to cover some of the burden from the delay.
Japan's domestic flyer count rose 0.9% in fiscal 2015 to 96.06 million people, according to the transport ministry. But ridership declined 0.9% to 54.55 million on the smaller-market routes where ANA plans to deploy the MRJ.