With flights still cut, Japan’s airline workers make the best of jobs on the ground

Over two years since the start of the outbreak, the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on airlines, with companies keeping seconded aviation personnel in roles on the ground.

One of those is All Nippon Airways Co. flight attendant Shion Yokohata, 25, who after the start of the pandemic was voluntarily seconded to the independent Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency, which aims to boost competition in the intercity transport market, where she works as a public relations officer.

Yokohata embraced the unexpected career change with a positive attitude, and she is determined to apply the experience gained at the agency once she returns to working in the air.

In a promotional video released by the agency, Yokohata is seen reporting in a helmet and functional work outfit at a construction site in Yokohama where a new railway station is being built. In addition to appearing in the video, she is responsible for everything from planning to producing the materials promoting the project.

Yokohata joined ANA in the spring of 2019 and worked on domestic flights as well as international flights to Europe, the United States and Southeast Asia.

About a year later, COVID-19 hit Japan and the airline industry. She was shocked to be working on empty flights and decided to take in-house online training programs from home to learn new skills.

In August 2021, she saw an announcement about a secondment opportunity to the railway agency. She explained in her application that she was open to learning something completely different from her flight attendant job. Yokohata started working at the agency in October.

She traveled around the country and visited construction sites and railroad facilities, including those of bullet trains, and wrote a series of articles for a magazine distributed to passengers of the Hokuriku Shinkansen. As a public relations officer, she promotes the work of the agency, whose efforts are often unknown to the general public.

Shion Yokohata (left) reports at a railway station construction site in Yokohama. † YOUTUBE CHANNEL OF THE JAPAN RAILWAY CONSTRUCTION, TRANSPORT AND TECHNOLOGY AGENCY / VIA KYODO

Yokohata cites the preparations for the launch of a passenger ship that the agency was involved in building and the ceremony to commemorate the launch as her most memorable experience, taking pride in her role.

“I could feel how people involved in the project were invested in making it happen as we worked toward the same goal,” she said.

The organization, which had lacked the ability to properly publicize such projects, is also appreciative of Yokohata’s know-how on how to present its work in a way that is easily understood by the public.

The airline industry continues to face difficulties, and as of February of this year, ANA had around 1,700 employees, including ANA Group employees, working for around 300 affiliated companies and organizations.

Yokohata says she wants to fly again in the future.

“But the effects of the pandemic haven’t only been negative,” she noted. “I see that it was a good opportunity for me. Now I wish to broaden my experience and improve my skills.”

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