The aviation industry has been severely affected by strict immigration restrictions for more than two and a half years as a border measure.

With the drastic relaxation of border measures in October and support for nationwide travel, demand for air travel is growing rapidly.

We explored the current state of the airline industry, which is struggling to soar again.

(Osaka Broadcasting Station Kansai Airport Branch Reporter Akira Ono)

Temporary drastic drop in demand Kansai Airport now

Kansai Airport is the gateway to the skies that connects Kansai and the rest of the world.

According to the Kansai Airport Branch of the Osaka Immigration Bureau, over 247,000 foreigners entered Japan from Kansai International Airport in November.

It has recovered to about 35% before the spread of infection.

Since the drastic relaxation of border measures in October, people with suitcases have landed at Kansai Airport one after another from morning until night, and the international lobby is gradually returning to its former bustle.

The global spread of infection has cast a dark shadow over the aviation industry.

International flights are mostly suspended.

The number of users temporarily dropped to less than 1% before the spread of infection.

People disappeared from the lobby of the international flight, the lights were turned off, and there was even an atmosphere of ruins.

At the beginning of 2020, just before the spread of the infection, about 20,000 people were working at Kansai Airport, but many people were seconded to companies other than the airport and left their jobs as the corona crisis continued.

Temporary transfer due to lack of work... Is there a shortage of workers?

Mr. Tsukasa Nishida (27) is engaged in tasks such as guiding the aircraft and loading and unloading baggage.

He had fulfilled his childhood dream of working to support the operation of airplanes and felt it was worthwhile, but due to the corona crisis, his work has drastically decreased.

A year ago, Mr. Nishida was seconded to an outside company that had absolutely nothing to do with his work at the airport.

Ms. Nishida:

“I took this job because I admired working with everyone to operate such a big plane. When the number of flights started to decrease due to the corona crisis, even if I went to work, the working hours per day would be 4 hours. I was wondering if I could be seconded, but I was honestly surprised when I was seconded."

After being seconded to another company for half a year, Mr. Nishida returned to work at Kansai Airport.

I am in charge of unloading luggage from the aircraft that has arrived and carrying it to the place where passengers can receive it.

Recently, he says that he is getting more and more busy, and he even feels that he is understaffed.

Ms. Nishida:

“As the number of flights has increased, it has become necessary to load and unload luggage on a tight schedule. My working hours are longer than before.

Mr. Nishida belongs to a company that is responsible for a variety of ground operations, such as check-in guidance, loading and unloading of luggage, maintenance of aircraft, etc., called ground handling.

Without pilots and flight attendants, as well as people like Mr. Nishida who are responsible for ground handling, the operation of an airplane would not be possible.

It's exactly the unsung hero.

At this company, 40% of the approximately 400 employees experienced secondment due to the prolonged corona disaster.

About 1% left the job.

In the last few months, when demand has started to recover, the company has been calling back people like Mr. Nishida who were seconded to the site one after another, but there are still not enough hands.

For this reason, the company is actively recruiting new employees.

The Human Resources Department conducts briefings online almost every day.

The appeal is that it is a "stable and rewarding workplace."

This is because there is a concern that the aviation industry has spread the image that it is an unstable job due to the large drop in demand due to the spread of infection.

Continuing these appeals leads to the hiring of dozens of people in many months.

Swissport Japan President Kazunari Yoshida

"I think there are quite a few places where the aviation industry is seen as 'an unstable industry' due to the corona crisis. The recent resumption of travel around the world has made it clear that the desire to move around the world will not go away. I think the aviation industry and passenger-related markets will grow again, so I would like to recruit and train human resources while communicating the appeal of the industry.”

The "pink" airline breathes a sigh of relief, entrusting our hopes to international flights

LCC Peach Aviation, which is based at Kansai Airport, also suffered a significant drop in performance due to the corona crisis.

All 17 international routes have been suspended.

Last year, two years in a row, we posted the largest deficit ever, and fell into a state of "insolvency" in which liabilities exceeded assets.

The scale expanded to 72.7 billion yen, about three times that of the previous fiscal year.

Such Peach Aviation entrusts its hopes for a recovery in performance to international flights, which accounted for half of its revenue before COVID-19.

LCC's business model is "low profit, high sales" with an emphasis on efficiency.

Furthermore, in the case of Peach Aviation, Kansai Airport is one of the few airports in Japan that operates 24 hours a day, making it possible to arrive and depart in the middle of the night.

Taking advantage of this, we aim to operate international flights during the early morning and late night hours when domestic flights are not available, and maximize profits with a limited number of aircraft.

Peach Aviation has resumed the routes that had been suspended since August this year, starting with the Korean route, when it felt the wind of resuming the global traffic.

With the intention of resuming Hong Kong routes next month, the person in charge of international flight operations is having repeated meetings with local sales agents.

Peach Aviation Aviation Business Planning Office Network Planning Dept. Cuong Kitty (Hong Kong

) I say, "I'm going home."

Just like I want to go back to my hometown of Hong Kong, some Hong Kongers want to go back to Japan, so the revival of our Hong Kong route will help make it easier to return home. I would be happy if it could be.”

Furthermore, at the end of December, we will start a new route with Bangkok, Thailand, with six round trips per week.

We are entering a route that is in high demand, both from people heading to Japan and from people heading to Japan.

A company spokesperson visited Bangkok in early December.

This is to work out a strategy for how to attract line users.

Bangkok is known for its glittering Buddhist temples, stalls, and street food.

Many customers can be expected from Japan.

In addition to inspecting the market, the person in charge met with high-ranking officials from the Thai government's tourism agency and appealed for the launch of the new route.

In addition, we had a meeting with a local PR company to get more people to come to Japan using a new route from Bangkok, which is one of the leading hub airports in Southeast Asia.

We discussed public relations strategies to get people to use our products when traveling to Japan, which has become more popular in Japan after the COVID-19 crisis.

Kaai Yamashita, Manager, Public Relations Office, Peach Aviation

"I heard from the Thai Tourism Agency that the deputy director of the East Asia Department has high expectations for us as a new business partner. I came to Kansai Airport from Thailand. I want to maximize the synergistic effect of domestic and international flights because I can easily travel to various parts of Japan from Kansai International Airport.”

Will Japan's largest LCC, which has been tossed about by the corona disaster, soar again?

Peach Aviation says that it is important to enter routes where demand is expected for business recovery.

Shiyuki Fukushima, General Manager of Aviation Business Planning Office, Peach Aviation

“Looking back at 2022, the situation was quite difficult in terms of income at the beginning. In order to rapidly recover our business performance and make 2023 a better year, it is not enough to just look at the resumption of existing routes that were operated before COVID-19. I think it is the strategy that will allow us to recover the fastest.”