ANA Holdings Inc., Japan’s largest airline, is considering building a pilot-training facility in Thailand as rising travel in Southeast Asia spurs carriers to expand their fleets.
The base is part of ANA’s plan to expand Pan Am Holdings Inc., a pilot-training company it is buying, ANA President Shinichiro Ito said in a Sept. 4 interview in Tokyo. He didn’t give a timeframe for setting up the facility.
“We’re looking at Thailand,” Ito said. “There’s demand for a huge number of pilots in Asia.”
Asian carriers will need to hire 192,300 pilots to keep pace with aircraft orders over the next 20 years, Boeing Co. predicted last month. Tokyo-based ANA has stepped up attempts to capture demand outside Japan, tapping into 174 billion yen ($1.7 billion) it got from a sale of shares to purchase a stake in Myanmar’s Asian Wings Airways Ltd.
The carrier advanced 0.5 percent to 219 yen in Tokyo trading yesterday. It has risen 21 percent this year, compared with a 38 percent gain for the Nikkei 225 Stock Average.
“It won’t be our last purchase,” Ito said. “Asia has great potential. We’ve had lots of offers. However, we’re not in a hurry.”
ANA agreed to buy 49 percent of Asian Wings for $25 million after restarting flights to Myanmar last year as the country’s moves toward democracy prompted the U.S. to ease sanctions. The carrier said in July it would pay $139.5 million for Miami-based Pan Am Holdings, the only remaining division of Pan American World Airways, to expand into aviation-related services.
“Both have promising business potential,” Ito said. “Myanmar is going to attract a lot of investment and it gives us a base to tap demand in other ASEAN countries.”
The carrier is also vying for more than half of the new 20 international slots at Tokyo’s Haneda airport that the nation’s transport ministry will distribute to local carriers for flights starting next year, Ito said.
Japan Airlines Co., the only other local airline that flies overseas from Haneda, relisted on the Tokyo Stock Exchange last year following a trip through bankruptcy and a turnaround after it was supported by 350 billion yen of government-backed financing.
ANA Holdings operating profit margin was 7 percent in the year ended March, compared with Japan Airlines 13.8 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“We can’t catch up with Japan Airlines finances and profitability by ourselves after the support it had under restructuring,” said Ito. “One of the few ways the government could help correct that imbalance would be to give priority over the new slots to us.”