Japan Airlines Leads the Market for Most Annual Passengers Between Japan and Europe in 2023

There has always been a strong connection between Japan and Europe that has existed throughout the commercial jet age. However, when the global pandemic first began back in 2020, there was a significant dip in air traffic between these areas due to the worldwide closure of nearly all airspace.

Japanese carriers dominate the Japan-Europe corridor

Since 2014, Japanese-based airlines have dominated the corridor between Japan and Western Europe. From 2014 to 2020, ANA (All Nippon Airways) held the top spot for the most passengers flown annually; however, recent data shows that JAL (Japan Airlines) has overtaken ANA and is currently the leading airline for connecting Japan and Europe.

Graph showing the top 20 airlines that fly between Japan and Europe
Chart visualising the data of the top 20 airlines that fly from Japan to Europe © Visual Approach Analytics

European Airlines in close competition – KLM struggling to keep pace

Lufthansa was previously the leading airline to connect the nations back in 2013. Since being overtaken by ANA, they have been on a steady decline, dropping as low as 7th in 2021, and are currently ranking at 5th since 2022. Despite this, European-based airlines have fared better than Middle-Eastern and Asian airlines, with airlines such as Air France, Finnair, and British Airways taking up some of the top 10 spots.

Although, it’s not all been good for the European Airlines. KLM, who was 3rd place post-pandemic in 2021, has recently fallen seven places in 2022 and is currently sitting at 11th place come 2023. This comes from the ongoing passenger/flight cap restrictions and the limitations that are in place at Schiphol Airport due to staff shortages that have affected the majority of operational areas and the high demand for flights post-pandemic. Read more about these restrictions here. Air France – a partner airline with KLM – has seen a shift in capacity and continues to be the top European Airline to dominate the market.

blue and white KLM aeroplane just taking off on a green runway with lots of clouds in the background in the sky. small plane in the distance flys above it
KLM aircraft taking off from Schiphol airport © Leo Spee

The disappearance of Russian Airlines – How the Middle East is benefitting

Though ranking lower than their Western European counterparts, Aeroflot, the leading Russian airline, offered great connections within the market due to their advantage of the Moscow geography. Unsurprisingly, the airline disappeared entirely from the market back in 2022 – likely due to the Russia-Ukraine war.

With Aeroflot’s disappearance comes the rise of Emirates, which is taking advantage of the lack of Russian airspace to local carriers in Japan and Europe and of Southern Dubai to connect markets without a northern route. They are currently ranking 4th below Air France.

Overall market post-pandemic

Despite the fluctuations in the leaderboard for the top airline connecting Japan and Europe and the early surge in 2023, the overall market still remains down 40% compared to the levels back in 2019 before the pandemic as seen below.

thumbnail Europe to Japan - Travel Radar - Aviation News
Graph visualising the monthly passengers from Western Europe to Japan in the last 10 years © Visual Approach Analytics

Regardless of the economic headwinds currently facing the segment, there is still an opportunity for growth. This is predicted to include other Southeast Asian markets that have only recently reentered into the global travel sphere in 2023.

If the trends hold, Japan is expected to maintain its leads in the market. This could be affected by Dubai becoming an increasingly valuable place for airlines that are excluded from Russian airspace. Furthermore, Instanbul matches a similar benefit and is being driven even further by Turkish Airlines’ excessive growth, as well as their access to Russian airspace.

What are your thoughts on the Japan-European market trends? Let us know in the comments!

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Millie Brown
Millie Brown
Millie is a recent English Literature graduate with a passion for reading, writing and travel. She is currently working as a Journalist Intern at Travel Radar to further her writing skills and gain some hands-on, journalist experience. In the future, she plans on going backpacking around the world with her partner whilst also working on becoming a freelance writer and journalist.