Today is the 40th anniversary of the first flight to Japan. On April 17, 1967 Aeroflot implemented its first regular passenger flight by TU-144 on the route Moscow – Tokyo – Moscow.
This flight was not only the beginning of regular air communication between the capitals of the USSR and Japan, but also played an important part in political closing-in of the two countries with a complex history of relations, and contributed to development of economic ties.
The historical event was preceded by long and complex negotiations completed on January 21, 1966 with signature of the intergovernmental agreement on direct air communication between the USSR and Japan. A new route opened the shortest way for air carriages from Europe to Asia by Trans-Siberian line. It was 2,5 thousand km shorter than the former way via the North Pole, and saved fuel and time. Moreover it was safer since it passed not over the ocean covered with ice but over the territory of Russia with a network of spare airports.
The first flight was implemented by TU-114 that suited this long route best. It was Aeroflot’s flagman – the largest passenger aircraft in the world. Fitted with four turboprop engines, with the total power of 60 thousand h.p. the liner covered intercontinental distances without any stops. The landing difficulty of a huge aircraft in the overcrowded airport of Heneda, located very close to the Japanese capital was overcome with mastership of the Soviet pilots during the technical flight in August 1966. The Japanese greeted landing of the first aircraft with applauds.
Aeroflot and the Japanese company JAL exploited a new airline jointly: the Japanese rented aircrafts from the USSR, flight crews were Soviet and stewards – Soviet and Japanese, revenues were divided in equal parts. For the sixties it was an unprecedented successful experiment that turned into a tradition: Japanese assistants of the Russian stewards still has been working on the route between Moscow and Tokyo.
Aeroflot flights by the Trans Siberian line opened this route for foreign companies. Soon «Air France», «British Airways», «KLM», «SAS», «Alitalia», «Lufthansa» and others started their flights from Europe via Moscow. The flights along the new line to South-Eastern Asia gave a strong impetus to development of long-haul carriages to other international destinations. Aeroflot started its flights to 54 states, however the line Moscow – Tokyo was always in the greatest demand.
In two years after beginning of the flights TU-114 was substituted by jet and more comfortable IL-62, then IL-62M; at the moment the destination is served by Boeing 767. As before the route Moscow-Tokyo-Moscow is different from others not only by its duration. As a rule about 80% of the passengers are the Japanese, so the environment of the Land of the Rising Sun is created on board: Russian stewards speak Japanese, they are assisted by the Japanese aids, the menu includes Japanese dishes, drinks (sake, beer, green tea), and passengers are offered magazines and newspapers in Japanese. By the daily Aeroflot flight with a stop in Moscow the Japanese citizens can get to Paris (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday), London (Friday, Sunday) and Rome (Wednesday).
In terms of the whole volume of passenger carriages Aeroflot’s Tokyo destination makes 2%. Passenger load factor is constantly growing. It has grown from 65% to 76% within last five years, the number of annually carried passengers increased from 90 thousand to 130 thousand (by almost 50%), and number of carried mail and cargoes – more than 3 times.
Apart from passenger liners, cargo aircrafts DC-10 fly to Tokyo with two stops in Novosibirsk and Seoul.
For the 40th anniversary of regular flights on the route Moscow – Tokyo – Moscow Aeroflot jointly with the Russian Embassy in Japan arranges festive events with participation of Aeroflot authorities and veterans, and representatives of the Japanese airline company JAL.
JSC “Aeroflot – Russian Airlines” (AFLT) is a certain leader of civil aviation in Russia, actually a national carrier. Being the largest domestic airline company it transports over 7 mln. of people annually and together with its subsidiaries – about 9 mln., i.e. 23% of the total amount of Russian air passengers. With a fleet of 90 air crafts it flies to 93 destinations in 47 countries (302 flights a day). The company controls 51% of the Russian market of regular international flights and about 12% of domestic flights. Net profit in 2006 made 7,9 bln. rubles.
Aeroflot is one of the oldest airline companies and one of the most known commercial brands in the world. The company was founded in 1923; it is based in Moscow in the international Sheremetyevo airport. In 2006 Aeroflot became the first Russian airline company to enter the global alliance SkyTeam. Joint route network of the alliance includes 728 destinations in 149 countries that gives Aeroflot passengers boundless opportunities of choice. Bonus programs of all alliance partners extend to Aeroflot clients. More information about SkyTeam benefits is available at www.skyteam.com.
Aeroflot is the only certified operator of international operational safety audit (IOSA) in Russia.
Tickets to Aeroflot flights with on-line payment, technology of e-ticket and more detailed information about the company are available at www.aeroflot.ru.