All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest airline, launched a collaboration project with J-pop mega-group AKB48 on Wednesday in order promote and increase travel among young Asians. With several of the girls from the music and entertainment group present at the announcement, ANA Senior VP Ken Nishimura said the airline hopes to rely on AKB48’s growing popularity across Asia to improve cultural connections with Japan. In layman’s speak that means the two money-making entities have entered into a joint-advertising deal.
As ANA looks to expand its service in Asia, it will “support” the members of AKB48 who have been transferred to the growing number of overseas sister groups, including JKT48, based in Jakarta, and SNH48, from Shanghai. The airline says it launch a new website as part of the project, where it will report on the activities of the girls during the time abroad, no doubt alongside the ticketing information and prices for ANA’s flights to said locations.
No doubt the highlight of Wednesday’s press event for Japan’s AKB48-obsessed male otaku (“nerds”) was seeing members like Mayu Watanabe and Sayaka Akimoto, along with Mariya Suzuki of SNH48, dressed in ANA cabin attendant uniforms. Suzuki commented that she’s been studying the Chinese language after her move, as she hopes to one day appear on TV without a translator. ANA also added that the promotion will include programs on domestic flights with the most prominent girls of AKB48, including Watanabe and Yuko Oshima, the 90-plus member group’s current “leader” (most popular).