The airline’s new order will replace the aging 737-800s.

Boeing 737 MAX 8
Photo: BlueBarronPhoto / Shutterstock

Japan Airlines inked a deal for 21 Boeing 737 MAX 8s earlier this week to modernize its existing narrowbody fleet. The flag carrier gave away little more than the planes being deployed on domestic and regional routes, so let’s take a look at the potential destination where we’ll see the MAX in Japan Airlines’ colors.

Domestic market

Japan has one of the busiest domestic markets in the world, routinely ranking third or fourth. This is apparent from the fact that three out of ten of the world’s busiest domestic flights are in the country. To keep up with this demand, Japan Airlines needs a large fleet of aircraft, including many widebodies. But it’s the 737-800 that is the workhorse around the carrier.

In addition to connecting the four hubs of Tokyo Narita, Haneda, Osaka Kansai, and Nagoya, the 737 MAX will be busy flying to the likes of Kyoto, Takamatsu, Nagasaki, Okinawa, and dozens of other cities. Expect to see the 737 MAX largely take over many of the major routes.

Japan Airlines Boeing 737

Photo: KITTIKUN YOKSAP/Shutterstock

However, with only 21 jets on order and 43 737NGs currently in the fleet, the modern narrowbody might even make its way onto some international routes, when demand allows. JAL’s unique mainline fleet means that widebodies are the overwhelming favorites for international assignments, no matter how short. However, the MAX does have some advantages.

Go longer

For reference, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 has a range of 3,550 nautical miles. This opens up all of Southeast Asia and North Asia to the Japanese carrier, as well as India. Currently, the 737 is used on routes to Seoul (GMP), meaning the aircraft is unlikely to start making long-haul journeys to New Delhi or Singapore any time soon. There’s a reason why JAL operates 47 Dreamliners and only 43 737s, underscoring the limited use of narrowbodies.

That being said, the entry of the brand-new MAX could allow some destinations served by the 767 could move over. This includes Seoul, Hanoi, Singapore, and Jakarta, all of which are well within the MAX’s range. Indeed, the carrier could even offer more services suing the narrowbody if demand allows.

737 MAX Range from Tokyo Haneda

Focus on domestic

In reality, the 737 MAX will likely remain busy on Japan’s domestic routes, with more than enough traffic. While a few might be selected for international routes, they are unlikely to go far outside their region, with Southeast Asia as the most likely target. Don’t expect any seven-hour journeys on a narrowbody with JAL, you’ll be on a widebody for that. While announcing the deal, Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said,

“The integration of the new 737 MAX will provide JAL with greater efficiency across its short-haul network, as the airline continues to upgrade its world-class fleet. Partnering with JAL to introduce 737-8s into its operations is the latest milestone in our longstanding relationship.”

For now, the MAX is set to join the domestic fleet and be spotted across Japan.

Where do you see Japan Airlines flying its 737 MAXs? Let us know in the comments.

  • Japan-Airlines-Q1-Loss-Falls
    The metrics are improving at Japan Airlines, albeit off a very low base. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying

    Japan Airlines

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Tokyo Haneda Airport, Tokyo Narita Airport

    Year Founded:


    Yuji Akasaka


  • 787-8 Dreamliner


    Stock Code:

    Business Type:

    Date Founded:

    Dave Calhoun

    Headquarters Location:
    Chicago, USA

    Key Product Lines:
    Boeing 737, Boeing 747, Boeing 757, Boeing 767, Boeing 777, Boeing 787


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