All Nippon steps up to become Asia’s dominant player

Photo courtesy AFP/Toru Yamanaka

Photo courtesy AFP/Toru Yamanaka

IT is interesting how All Nippon Airways (ANA) so soon after pushing AirAsia out of the AirAsia Japan partnership – the erstwhile partnership airline was subsequently re-launched as Vanilla Air – went on to acquire a stake in Myanmar’s Asian Wings Airways (AWA). It looks like it is doing an AirAsia, whose head honcho Tony Fernandes is reputed to be constantly shopping for additions to the Malaysian budget carrier’s stable.

The 49-per-cent stake in AWA cost ANA 2.5 billion yen (US$25 million).

Yet it should not come as a surprise considering that ANA had earlier in the year made known its intention to seek acquisitions and partnerships across Asia. The Japanese carrier, arch rival of Japan Airlines (JAL), is said to have also held preliminary discussions to acquire a stake in Philippine Airlines.

At a time when many airlines are still floundering in an uncertain global economy, and ANA itself having experienced a series of setbacks resulting from the grounding of its B747 Dreamliner fleet earlier in the year, ANA is taking a bold view of the future and stepping up to become Asia’s dominant player. Already Japan’s largest carrier by revenue and fleet size, the airline is literally expanding its aviation empire to take advantage of the region’s growth potential.

Director of strategic planning Toshiaki Nonaka said: “There’s still a lot more room for growth in travel in Asia. We want to actively go and seize that growth. With this tie-up we’re expanding our base for flights to other Asian countries.”

ANA has also expressed interest in Thailand and India.

At home, ANA is constantly engaged in a tough if not bitter tussle with JAL for slots, and feels disadvantaged by the government’s bias towards the latter which it helped out of bankruptcy through what some critics had alleged to be “public assistance”.

It does make one wonder where were some of the region’s big names when ANA stood in the front line as soon as Myanmar relaxed its rules on foreign investment. This is not saying willy-nilly they should all have jostled with ANA for a foothold in the new arena. It is a gamble on potential and not one without risks. But in light of the impending Asean Open Skies becoming fully enforced by 2015, ANA appears to be hitting a right note.

asian wings
Myanmar is a key growth prospect in the region as the country moves towards a more open economy politically. AWA, which operates to domestic tourist destinations since its inception in 2011, has plans to expand beyond Myanmar. It is said to be acquiring 10 Airbus A320s over the next five years. This is probably what ANA hopes to see AWA become, and that AWA (along with other acquisitions and joint ventures) will complement ANA’s presence across Asia the way that Qantas is doing through its Jetstar budget subsidiary. And, perhaps, though unspoken, it becomes the envy of JAL.

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About Dingzi
Writer by passion, with professional expertise in aviation, customer service and creative writing. Aviation veteran, author, editor and management consultant. Besides commentary on business issues and life-interest topics, travel stories and book reviews, genres include fiction, poetry and plays. Nature lover who abhors cruelty of any form to animals, and a tireless traveler. Above all, a dreamer.

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