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Thursday, October 11, 2012

JAL to launch direct Helsinki service from February 25 2013


Today Japan Airlines (JAL) announces February 25 2013 as the launch date of its Tokyo Narita (NRT) - Helsinki (HEL) 787 service. Previously, JAL planned to start this service in March instead. Given its location is much closer to Japan compared to other European gateway and the 35 minutes minimum connection time (MCT) for transit passenger in their compact terminal, the new NRT-HEL flight will offer JAL passengers a stress free and shortest transit experience to many Northern, Central and Eastern European cities.

Below is the flight schedule of the new NRT - HEL service at launch, subject to government approval. Time might change after March 30 2013 when summer schedule starts.

JL413 11:45 NRT - 15:05 HEL
JL414 17:25 HEL - 10:15+1 NRT

As announced before, JAL will use a 2 class configured 787-8 on this route. At first this will only be a 4 weekly service with flight operating on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Depending on delivery schedule of 787-8, JAL will increase this to daily service in the first half of fiscal year 2013.

With this new HEL service to fellow oneworld alliance member Finnair's hub, JAL is able to shorten the total travel time to quite a few European destinations. For example, traveling from Warsaw to Tokyo will only need 13 hours and 10 minutes via HEL instead of the current 17 hours and 40 minutes via Frankfurt. You can save a total of 4 hours 30 minutes!

In the press release, JAL also mention they plan to deepen their cooperation with Finnair (AY) in the near future. This could mean more codesharing on AY's flights. But there was a rumor a while back about adding AY to the JAL and British Airways (BA) joint venture (JV). The JAL and BA JV has recently commenced on October 1 2012. With the JV, JAL and BA can now coordinate on their flight schedules and offer joint fares. Frequent flyers of each programs also enjoy enhanced reciprocal benefits. With Swiss International Air Lines and Austrian Airlines recently joining All Nippon Airways (ANA) JV with Lufthansa, it makes sense for JAL to further expand its European JV to include other oneworld partners. Iberia which is also under the BA's parent company IAG and AY would be a good candidate. But we will need to wait to see if this materialize.

To celebrate the launch of HEL service, JAL will offer special economy fares starting from JPY92,000 to 5 Finnish cities of Helsinki, Rovaniemi, Ivalo, Kittila, Oulu and Estonian city of Tallinn. Also, the recently announced joint fares with BA will also apply to the new direct 787 flight to HEL. For more details, you can refer to JAL press release (Japanese, English)

Also, for the JAL Mileage Bank (JMB) members who are traveling to Europe, you should really consider giving the new HEL flight a try. Given JAL usually launch a double mileage campaign when they first start a new route (e.g. San Diego, Boston), it is possible that they would offer a similar double mileage campaign at launch. My *guess* is for travel between February 25 and June 30 2013 :)

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