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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #232: July 20, 2004

Getting a cheap flight to Japan

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Getting a cheap flight to Japan"
Financial Times

Related Article:
"US should ignore law for Jenkins: Japan"
(Reuters and AP) Taipei Times


The article is a casual report, perhaps with a sardonic tone, focusing on the flight the family of Hitomi Soga took on Sunday from Jakarta to Tokyo. (Refer to the related article above for a quick summary of the background.) It reports that the two major airline companies in Japan, Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA), competed in the bid for the charter flight sponsored by the government, each bidding 1 yen, and JAL won through a drawing. Later it was considered "uncommon" by some government officials and price was raised to 50,000 yen, where it would cost around 10 million yen for such a charter flight under normal circumstances.

There was actually another very favorable deal a week earlier, when ANA conducted a charter flight from Tokyo, to pick up Charles Jenkins, husband of Ms Soga, in Pyongyang, and carry him, together with Japanese and North Korean government officials, to Jakarta. It was reported earlier that ANA, bid 50,000 yen for the flight, while JAL asked 950 thousand yen, against the expectation of the government at 9 million yen. That time the aggressive bidding by ANA won the contract.

Japan Airlines learned a lesson there. They became aware of the huge marketing value for the flight to be reported over various media. It was a big business promotion opportunity and the competition between the two airlines to win the charter for the flight back to Tokyo became intense.

The plane arrive at about 6 pm in Japan on Sunday at Haneda airport. The sun was still out, not bright but more than sufficient to see the markings on the plane, including the logo. In fact the light effect in the midst of shifting from day to dusk provided for almost a romantic backdrop for the Sogas' fist time visit as a family.

Literally every TV station televised live of the flight's whole sequence of approaching, landing, then taxing, all clearly exhibiting the design and the logo on the airplane. The scene was then televised uncountable number of times in every news later on.

Considering it would cost millions of yen to buy a one-minute commercial time on a major station during peak hours, JAL has indeed succeeded in selling its logo to the public, especially considering that the logo was redesigned less than two years ago and had not been able to attract much recognition.

If it turned out to save the government's money, and provide a comfort flight for the Soga family, there doesn't seem to be a loser in the deal.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications