Honda Aircraft Co.'s bid to diversify its customer base gained momentum Wednesday with a planned partnership with the largest Japanese airline carrier.
Honda Aircraft signed a memorandum of understanding with ANA Holdings Inc. of Tokyo.
The partnership involves ANA utilizing HondaJet aircraft for charter and feeder flights in its network at major travel hubs in North America and Europe.
ANA operates about 260 commercial airplanes globally. ANA plans to use HondaJet with business jet and commercial flight customers.
"I am confident the HondaJet will meet and exceed their customers' expectations with its unrivaled speed, efficiency, luxurious features and comfort," Michimasa Fujino, Honda Aircraft's president and chief executive, said in a statement.
Shinya Katanozaka, ANA's president and chief executive, said that by having access to HondaJet, "ANA will create new demand to utilize business jets, in particular for travelers of various Japanese entities who value convenience and privacy in their overseas travel."
Honda Aircraft has more than 1,000 employees at its manufacturing plant next to Piedmont Triad International Airport.
The partnership is "stunning news" for Honda Aircraft given that "ANA is one of the world's most highly regarded airlines," said Keith Debbage, a joint professor of geography and sustainable tourism and hospitality at UNC Greensboro.
"It provides HondaJet with a potential market niche that could be substantive. As the economy continues to recover from the (Great Recession), the business jet and charter flight market continues to show promise in certain markets.
"Perhaps most importantly in the long-term, it sends a very strong signal to U.S. airlines that HondaJet has arrived and may be capable of playing a similar role for a U.S. carrier here in our domestic market," Debbage said.
Honda Aircraft’s dealer network markets include Asia, China, Europe, India, Middle East, North America and South America.
For example, the company has an order for 16 HondaJets from French air taxi company Wijet.
HondaJet was the most-delivered jet in its category for 2017 with 43 as reported by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. The company is manufacturing the aircraft at a rate of about four per month.
ABA operates 85 international routes and 116 domestic routes. ANA offers a dual hub model that enables passengers to travel to Tokyo and connect through the two airports in metropolitan Tokyo to various destinations throughout Japan. It offers same-day connections to North American, Asian and Chinese cities.
ANA has been a member of Star Alliance since 1999 and has joint venture partnerships with United Airlines, Lufthansa German Airlines, Swiss International Airlines and Austrian Airlines.