MIAMI – With just a couple of days ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, let’s discuss where the country’s major airlines position themselves amid a pandemic that has put Japan in a state of emergency.

Back in June 2015, during the foundation years of Tokyo 2020, it was announced that JAL (JL) and ANA (NH) would be the games’ first official partners, under the category of “passenger air transportation services.” A first for the two giants to work together, as they usually compete against each other.

Yoshirō Mori, President of Tokyo 2020, added, “We are delighted to welcome ANA and JAL as supporting partners of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay.”

“From the time both companies became Tokyo 2020 official airline partners in June 2015, they have helped create momentum across Japan and contributed towards the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

With the cooperation of JAL and ANA, a special Boeing 787- Dreamliner JA837J was brought into service, which carried out a special mission to carry the Olympic torch from Athens to Matsushima Air Base in Japan in March 2020. The special livery lasted just one week and then got repainted to the regular JAL livery. We are reminded of the logistics LATAM (LA) took to carry the flame back in 2016 from Geneva to Brasilia.

In 2019, JAL stated it would give away up to 50,000 domestic return tickets to foreign nationals who visit the country during the time of next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Tokyo’s – Haneda (HND) and Narita (NRT) airports were both extremely ambitious on adding several flights to cope up with visitor influx from all over the globe. An estimate of 600,000 overseas visitors was set to arrive for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

ANA JA741A Boeing 777-281ER (Tokyo 2020 livery). Photo: Kochan Kleps/Airways

The COVID-19 Pandemic

All the optimism and effort to get the games kicking were brought to hold as COVID made its move throughout the globe. It was later that the official statement came out that the games would be postponed by a year to July 23, 2021. A delay brought in a significant amount of strain on the Japanese government and the airlines of Japan. Several lockdowns at national and regional levels were announced.

Serious troubles followed both airlines (JL and NH) in no time. Grounding, cancellations, fleet maintenance caused a major setback for both airlines.

In April 2021, ANA reported its largest-ever annual loss of US$3.72bn for FY 20-21. Competitor JAL wasn’t too far behind, the airline published a loss of US$2.6bn. “Our situation has been severe throughout this fiscal year” JAL stated. For a period that was supposed to be the best time for these two airlines, in reality, they saw their worst.

Just last week, the Japanese government has asked airlines to reduce and limit the number of international arrivals in order to smoothly conduct COVID testing and entrance into the country. The Olympic organizers fear commercial flights the most, positive cases among incoming passengers are forcing changes to protocols which could be a threat to participating athletes.

A closed-door Olympics, a state of national emergency, and in respect to aviation, two of the nation’s largest carriers which have suffered all through last year, are still not allowed to operate at desired capacity.

Japan Airlines JA837J Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay Livery). Photo: John Leivaditis/Airways

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Liveries

Although Tokyo 2020 faced extensive amounts of delays, restrictions, and whatnot that still doesn’t make an event of this scale just go by. The two prominent Japanese carriers ANA and JAL have worn special liveries for the past few years in order to highlight the world’s largest event throughout their flight network. 

Japan Airlines JA773J Boeing 777-200. Photo: Christian Winter/Airways


Since 2015, ANA and JAL have worked with the Japanese government and Olympic association to become the two official airlines for the games.

In 2019, A JAL Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner was given a special paint job to feature a ‘Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay’ and on the upper side of this aircraft, it says ‘Hope Lights Our Way’, which should remind anyone that they are not alone during this pandemic.

The aircraft also had both JAL’s and ANA’s logos towards the front. The aircraft was nicknamed  ‘TOKYO 2020 Go’ and was used to bring the Olympic flames Athens Greece to Japan in March 2020. The livery just lasted one week and upon completing the mission, the aircraft was re-painted in its regular JAL livery.

Japan Airlines JA601J Boeing 767-300ER (Tokyo 2020 Olympics Livery). Photo: Misael Ocasio Hernandez/Airways

JAL JA773J and JA601J

JAL has been operating a Boeing 777-200 (JA773J) and a Boeing 767-300ER (JA601J) since 2019 what it calls the ‘Everyone’s 2020 Jet’ liveries. The liveries feature the Tokyo Olympics mascots as well.

ANA All Nippon Airways JA741A Boeing 777-200(ER) (HELLO 2020 JET Livery). Photo: Christian Winter/Airways


ANA operates a Boeing 777-200ER in the ‘HELLO 2020’ livery. It was designed and created by a participant in ANA’s public contest to design the livery. It features some of Japan’s famous landmarks as well as some Olympic sports.

Featured image: Japan Airlines JA837J Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay Livery). Photo: John Leivaditis/Airways