By Kai Curry
Northwest Asian Weekly
“It has been a challenging year for the entire travel industry and as a result, we have had to continually adapt and implement modified measures, yet we remain optimistic that travel will return and we are preparing for the future,” said Kosei Yamada, Vice President and Regional Manager of the Northwestern Region, Seattle Branch for Japan Airlines (JAL). Due to COVID-19 safety measures, JAL temporarily suspended Seattle operations in mid-April 2020. As of March 2, 2021, Seattle routes to/from Japan will be reinstated, with a reduced schedule.
“We are pleased to be resuming Seattle–Tokyo service … and have announced an initial three-days-per-week schedule,” Yamada told the Northwest Asian Weekly. “From Narita, flights will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and from Seattle, flights will operate on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.”
The travel and tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, nationally and globally.
JAL incorporated many adjustments, both domestically and internationally, to cope with events. “Safety is the foremost priority at JAL, and we quickly responded to the changes in the environment with enhanced, thorough cleaning and hygiene measures throughout the customer journey,” Yamada shared. On JAL’s website, requirements for hygienic practices are outlined for guests and the airline’s own introduced safety enhancements are described.
“For example, modifications have been made to services such as inflight meals, without compromising menus, and cabin crew now wear gloves during service, in addition to masks throughout the flight. We also require customers to wear masks. At airports, we have adjusted boarding procedures and we encourage customers to check-in online before arriving to the airport…With adjusted entry requirements and new travel guidelines, customers are adapting and our focus is to ensure that we provide the necessary information to them in advance of their travel, so that they can have a smooth journey,” Yamada explained.
Like many companies, JAL has done its utmost to adjust and remain cautious about everyone’s health while paying attention to customer service and employee safety. Everyone’s life has been disrupted to some degree, be it a passenger, a flight attendant or airline executive, or on-the-ground staff. JAL responded to alterations in their crews’ schedules by creative operational pivoting.
Yamada has been impressed with how his staff, and others, have responded to this unique time by finding ways to give assistance to their fellow citizens.
“What stands out to me is how so many colleagues and people throughout the world quickly volunteered to assist others in so many ways, such as making masks and helping neighbors,” he said.
International tourism has been important to the economies of both countries. In Seattle, according to a survey released in 2016 by Visit Seattle, international tourism accounted for a small percent of arrivals to the city, but for over 17% of spending because international visitors tend to stay longer and spend more.
According to the Port of Seattle, international travel was hovering around 5% in 2019, yet a great amount of income still comes into the city from this entry point. As explained by the Port’s current website data, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is a “top-ten U.S. airport,” which in 2019 served “51.8 million passengers and 453,549 metric tons of air cargo…
With a regional economic impact of more than $22.5 billion in business revenue, SEA generates more than 151,400 jobs (87,300 direct jobs), representing over $3.6 billion in direct earnings and more than $442 million in state and local taxes.”
“Japan Airlines is eager to resume service to and from Sea-Tac,” Yamada said. “When you’re near the airport, be sure to look up and hopefully you’ll see our red-crowned crane as it returns to the skies over Seattle.”
Kai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.