Monday, 24 March 2008
Nonstop flights between Asia and Latin America
Paul Lukacs has an interesting recent post updating some of my earlier comments on the (lack of) nonstop flights between Latin America and Asia.
For the sake of completeness, there are a few flights and details he missed, although they in no way alter his, or my, conclusions about the difficulties of Asia-Latin American travel, especially for people who don't want to, or can't get permission to, transit the USA or its airspace:
- Japan Airlines has "direct" (same-plane) flights between Tokyo and Sao Paulo. In the past, various other Japanese, Korean, and Brazilian airlines have operated direct flights between Rio or Sao Paulo and Tokyo, Osaka, and Seoul. But none of these flights have been nonstop: all of them have stopped in the USA. And the USA has no provision for transit without visa. Japan is in the USA "Visa Waiver Program", so Japanese citizens "only" need to be fingerprinted and photographed while their plane is refueled at LAX or JFK. But Brazilian and Korean citizens need expensive (US$130) transit visas for the USA, requiring an in-person application and interview at a US Embassy or Consulate, even if they aren't leaving the airport. The cost and hassle of transit visas led to the discontinuation of all of these flights by Brazilian and Korean airlines after the USA abolished its (very limited) transit without visa facilities after 11 September 2001, leaving only the current JL flights NRT-JFK-GRU and v.v.
- The Aeromexico flights between Tijuana and Tokyo would have to go some distance out of their way to avoid overflying USA airspace. So it's likely that, under the latest international APIS rules, Aeromexico is required to get permission from the USA before it boards each passenger.
- Since late 2007, there has been exactly one regularly scheduled nonstop airline route between Asia and South America: between Dubai and Sao Paulo on Emirates. Dubai isn't quite as far out of the way as Europe for passengers from Asia, the Middle East, and the Middle East. And it's easier for citizens of most countries to get permission to transit Dubai -- as long as they don't leave the airport -- than to transit most countries in Europe, much less the USA. It's now the obvious route to and from South America for Chinese business travellers, among others. The simplicitly of the transit outweighs the greater distance, time, and airfare. But it's still a costly, roundabout route, especially for people travelling to or from East or Southest Asia.