The first regularly scheduled nonstop flight between San Diego and Tokyo has landed at Lindbergh Field, bringing with it hopes of increased tourism and economic opportunity for both sides.
Yoshiharu Ueki, the president of Japan Airlines, said at a news conference that numerous companies around San Diego County have close ties to Japan or other Asian nations and, until now, travel between the two regions has been difficult.
The airline recently began service to Boston, and wanted a West Coast match, which led to San Diego, Ueki said.
The flight is scheduled for Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, arriving at Lindbergh Field at 9:45 a.m. and departing for Tokyo at 11:30 a.m. The flights are expected to be operated daily in March.
Ueki said he envisions travelers flying to San Diego for medical and business conventions and visiting Comic-Con International.
Joe Terzi, president and CEO of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Asia is the logical target for San Diego to grow its tourism industry, he said.
"We think that visitors from Japan will flock to San Diego on this new flight," Terzi said. A local tourism delegation is scheduled to travel to Japan next week to promote San Diego.
The new service is "great news," said Bob O'Heir, an area resident who travels to Tokyo five or six times a year for business.
"It's extremely convenient to not have to go up to LA (first)," O'Heir, an employee of Hitachi, said as he waited for Sunday's inaugural return flight to Tokyo's Narita Airport. "It saves me several hours of travel time."
San Diego economic boosters have lusted after direct service to Japan for years, in part because of the Japanese-run factories, or "maquiladoras," in the Tijuana area.
One of the arguments for building a new San Diego airport was to have a runway long enough to accommodate jumbo jets bound for Asia. The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner gave airlines a jet that could fly long distances without requiring longer runways.
The wide-body aircraft, which Japan Airlines configured to carry up to 186 passengers, is marketed as more fuel efficient and comfortable for long- haul flights.
The JAL 787 was greeted upon arrival by a water salute from the hoses of a pair of fire trucks near Lindbergh Field's Terminal 2.
Thella Bowens, CEO of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, said San Diego was the largest U.S. city without a nonstop flight to Asia until now.
The flight has a ticket code-sharing arrangement with American Airlines but will be operated by Japan Airlines.
– City News Service