Last September, Mori Building Co Ltd and Mori Building City Air Services Co Ltd (MCAS) launched the Narita Airline Connection Service, using a luxury EC135 Hermes edition helicopter, the result of collaboration between world-renowned European helicopter manufacturer Eurocopter and French fashion house Hermes.
The helicopter can comfortably seat four passengers with ample room for relaxation and for luggage. Taking approximately 30 minutes (15-minute helicopter flight + 15-minute limousine transportation), this regular chartered service provides swift transportation by helicopter between central Tokyo (ARK Hills/Akasaka) and Narita International Airport. There is a total of 22 round-trip flights per day.
The one-way fare is 38,000 yen and 70,000 yen return. However, MCAS has tied up with some airlines to offer the helicopter service as part of their service. If you do take the flight, you’ll be in good company. Other high flyers who have used the service include actors Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ken Watanabe.
Japan Today editor Chris Betros visits Shin to hear more about the service.
How has the response been since you started the Narita Airline Connection Service last September?
To date, we have had about 150 customers per month, which is a good start. However, we are now targeting 300 a month. In order to achieve this goal, we have been putting a lot of efforts into our sales and promotional activities.
Who mainly uses the service? Foreign execs or Japanese execs?
On average, it’s about 60% Japanese and 40% foreign. At first, Japanese tended to be a bit more conservative than foreigners because they are not accustomed to using helicopters as a means of transportation.
With how many airlines have you negotiated to include the helicopter ride as part of a first-class airfare?
We have already started offering the service for ANA first-class passengers and we are discussing expanding it to their business class, as well. This month, we started offering the service to American Airlines business class ticket holders. JAL business class passengers will be able to fly with us from April 1, and we also have deals with Lufthansa for first class and with Alitalia for their first, business and economy class.
Won’t JAL’s bankruptcy affect your deal?
Not very much. We have been assured by the airline and the government that JAL will keep flying.
Is it easy to negotiate with airline companies?
Fortunately, I have a good network from my last job. I worked at ANA for 43 years before leaving to join Mori Building in 2009. ANA kindly supported our new business and this laid the groundwork allowing us to more easily negotiate with other airline companies.
Why did you tie up with Hermes? Are you targeting women customers?
The philosophy of President Minoru Mori is to offer the best quality service to our customers. By collaborating with Hermes, we can offer our passengers the most comfortable trip. The interior of the cabin features high-quality calf leather seats and is lined from floor to ceiling with Hermes signature “Toile H” material, which has been used for Hermes travel goods since the 1920s. But we are not specifically targeting women; the current ratio of men to women using our service is 80:20.
How are you actually marketing the service?
The Narita Airline Connection Service is really still in its trial stage since it hasn’t been done before. We need to raise the traveling public’s awareness more. Mori Building uses a variety of media such as TV, magazines and newspapers for cost-effective advertising. Our domestic campaign has been very successful. For overseas promotion, we rely on our homepage and some banner ads on sites like Japan Today to reach out to executives overseas traveling to Japan. Now we are asking travel agencies abroad to distribute our brochures, and we continue working to build relationships with airlines, hotels and other partners.
Have you thought about services from other parts of Tokyo to Narita or to Haneda?
These are options for the future, but not right away. The plan and priority right now is to develop the business in Minato Ward first.
How many pilots do you have?
Currently, the service has three pilots.
Why doesn’t the flight go straight to the terminal instead of landing at a heliport 15 minutes away from the airport?
One reason is for time management. It would be possible to fly a helicopter into the airport, but you are subject to air traffic control ... and with the huge number of commercial flights taking off and landing, we would probably have to wait a while before getting permission to fly into the controlled airspace and land. Secondly, the helicopter cannot land right by the terminal. The hangar is quite a distance from the terminal and that would not be convenient for customers.
Our Sakura heliport is not in controlled airspace, so as soon as you land, we can whisk you to the terminal in a limo in 15 minutes.
What is a typical day for you?
I put most of my energy into marketing. For example, I meet executives from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport’s Tokyo Regional Civil Aviation Bureau. I also go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and I have been lobbying embassies to use and promote our service. Sometimes, I meet with the major travel agencies as well.
I hear some famous people have already used your helicopter.
Yes, last year, Tom Cruise used our service. He was a very nice guy. Leonardo DiCaprio and Ken Watanabe also used our helicopter. Many different people have used the service and we've had great feedback from them.
For reservations, visit http://www.mcas.co.jp.© Japan Today