Air Transport World

A taste for the Big Apple: JAL's New York expansion. (Japan Air Lines)

New York and Tokyo have been Sister Cities since 1960. Although the relationship is largely symbolic, it does reflect the importance of New York to Tokyo-headquartered Japan Airlines.

Unlike a number of other international carriers that have moved their U.S. headquarters out of Manhattan to the suburbs and some or all of their flight operations from JFK international to Newark, JAL has steadily increased its stake in New York.

In the last few years, JAL has invested or committed more than $250 million for new passenger and cargo terminals at JFK. This is in addition to the more than $300 million it has spent in Manhattan and JFK for services, salaries, rentals, supplies and the like, in the 40 years the airline has been in New York. Not included in the $300 million are charges for in-flight meals, landing fees, fuel and crew lodging. Nor is the acquisition and renovation of New York's Essex House, now the flagship of JAL's Nikko hotel chain.

When JAL opened its first New York sales office in December, 1953, San Francisco was the carrier's Americas home city. After switches back and forth between the two cities, JAL settled on New York for its headquarters in 1969, moving into its own building on Fifth Avenue. Explains Mitsuo Ando, senior VP and managing director, Americas region: "West Coast passengers are mostly economy-minded leisure tourists. …

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