Japan Airlines brings KFC to the skies

The in-flight meals are an example of Yum Brands' successful international expansion efforts.

By Bruce Kennedy Nov 30, 2012 10:12AM

Credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images
Caption: Japan Airlines President Yoshiharu Ueki (2nd L) and Masao Watanabe (2nd R), President of Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan, pose during a photo session after a press conference to announce their new service 'AIR Kentucky Fried Chicken' which is in-flight special fried chickenKonichiwa. Colonel Sanders will be with you shortly. . . please take your seat.

Starting Saturday and running through February, Japan Airlines passengers can dine on KFC on select flights from Tokyo's Narita International Airport to the United States and Europe.

The all-things-Asian website Kokatu.com has links to some remarkable pictures from Wednesday's Tokyo press conference where JAL unveiled what it calls "Air Kentucky."

The story includes shots of what JAL describes as the "exquisite packaging" for this in-flight meal: a special KFC  box and tray mat, the fried chicken in question and instructions in both Japanese and English on just how to eat the "finger-lickin' good" contents.

The move says something about the competitiveness of airlines in Japan -- and a lot about how KFC's parent company, Yum Brands (YUM), is making major inroads in Asia and across the developing world.

"JAL has been facing stiff competition from rival All Nippon Airways for several years," notes Kokatu. "Traditionally, JAL was the premiere air carrier, but that's changed, with ANA boasting more passengers than JAL for the second consecutive year in a row. A cabin filled with the smell of KFC could just be enough to lure fliers back to JAL."

KFC is hugely popular in Japan, particularly during the Christmas/New Year season. Apparently that tradition started decades ago, when gaijin (foreigners) unable to find turkey for their holiday meals would seek out the Colonel for whole chickens.

Some of KFC's Japanese operations noticed the uptick in business, and in 1974 came up with its very successful "Kentucky for Christmas" ad campaign. Japan is now KFC's No. 2 non-U.S. market, according to Yum, with more than 1,500 stores across the country.

The top KFC market outside of America is China. Since opening its first mainland China store in 1987, the company now has more than 4,000 there -- making it the dominant American fast-food chain in the People's Republic.

"As the pace of life in China speeds up, customers are often in a hurry but demand good hygiene standards," Wan Ge, an analyst with China Venture Group, recently told China Daily. "Fast food has become the first choice for 85% of Chinese city dwellers when they want to eat out."

China and other developing nations reportedly account for about 60% of KFC's business profits.

In its 2012 third-quarter earnings report, Yum's global operating profit grew 18%. That figure included a 22% rise in China and 14% at Yum Restaurants International. The company's KFC and Pizza Hut franchises have also made strong inroads into India, Indonesia, Korea, Thailand and Malaysia.  


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Dec 4, 2012 2:48PM

now obesity will be a global problem, what a shame.

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