Japan Airlines (JAL) was forced to add an extra domestic flight last week to accommodate a large group of sumo wrestlers flying from Tokyo to attend a local competition in southern Japan.
Two separate groups of sumo
wrestlers were set to fly from different airports on Oct. 12 to attend the Special National Sports Festival on Amami Oshima Island
in Kagoshima Prefecture, southern Japan
, last week, according to The Yomiuri Shimbun
. Around 460 sumo wrestlers reportedly participated at the competition, which ran from Friday to Sunday.
One group, consisting of 13 members, was booked at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, while the other 14 wrestlers were flying from Itami Airport in Osaka Prefecture.
Weight concerns: JAL
raised concerns about exceeding the planes’ weight limit after learning that the wrestlers were an average weight of 120 kilograms (264.5 pounds) each, far more than the weight of an average flyer
at 70 kilograms (154.3 pounds).
The airline concluded that with the wrestlers’ average weight, the two Boeing 737-800s, which can carry a maximum of 165 passengers, would not be able to carry the required fuel capacity for the flights.
Another issue the airlines discovered was that the airport on Amami was too small to accommodate a large airplane.
Workaround: As a workaround, JAL reportedly decided to add a special domestic flight on Oct. 12 on short notice to fly all 27 wrestlers to the island for the competition, including the 14 sumo wrestlers who were made to fly from Itami to Haneda Airport in Tokyo that day.
A spokesperson for JAL reportedly told the Minami-Nippon Shimbun that it was “extremely unusual” for them to “operate special flights due to the weight restrictions on this aircraft.”
Their way home:
JAL also reportedly organized another flight for the wrestlers from Fukuoka to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Sunday. Three wrestlers, all high school students from Gunma Prefecture, told TV Asahi
that they had to sit next to each other during the flight. One student noted that the middle seat “was the toughest.”