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Sales of airline service carts, parts from retired planes take off in Japan

NARITA, Chiba -- Sales of an airline's cabin service carts and aircraft components have been soaring in Japan, with many items quickly getting snapped up by enthusiasts.

    Major airline All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA)'s group company All Nippon Airways Trading Co. began to sell the inflight service carts in March, and apparently many people have purchased them to use for storage and as interior accessories.

    All Nippon Airways Co. cabin attendant Miki Iguchi pushes a sample of an inflight service cart at Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture on June 15, 2021. (Mainichi/Tadakazu Nakamura)

    "We really appreciate the response that was larger than we had expected," said a representative at ANA Trading. "We hope to help people enjoy spending time at home."

    The half-sized carts were used by cabin attendants to carry items such as coffee, soup, tea and juice in paper cartons, and bottled water along the aisles.

    ANA Trading sold a total of some 220 unused carts in five batches between March 16 and June 8, and the carts in the latest three batches sold out in just a few minutes. The ones that sold on June 8 for 115,500 yen (about $1,050) had silver bodies with the ANA logo on them and contained four drawers and one tray. The aluminum alloy framed carts measured 103 centimeters in height, 30 centimeters in width and 40 centimeters in depth. They can be pushed and pulled to transport items, and there are red brake pedals at the bottom to stop the carts.

    The inside of a sample half-size cabin service cart is seen at Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture on June 15, 2021. (Mainichi/Tadakazu Nakamura)

    As each cart weighs 20.6 kilograms, 27-year-old cabin attendant Miki Iguchi said: "I felt it was hard to move them when I was a rookie, but as I move carts on flights almost every day, I no longer feel their weight."

    As safety is the highest priority on aircraft, cabin attendants carefully make sure there are no passengers or objects that could interrupt or come into contact with the carts when they move them, and apply the brakes whenever they take their hands off them. Since a cart could turn over if there are too many things on top of it and the center of gravity becomes high, supplementary drinks and other items are stored inside. Attendants push with their whole body, and pay attention to the wheels because the cart won't move if its wheels are in the wrong direction.

    "A lot of things can be put in a cart, which people usually see only onboard, and it would look nice by just placing it (in a room)," Iguchi said about the online sales. "When people use the carts, I hope they can enjoy the atmosphere as if they are being served with drinks and other items on a plane."

    After the unused carts sold out one after another, ANA Trading put used ones from the early 1990s on sale on June 15. As all 45 carts in the batch, each priced at 64,900 yen (about $590), sold out in only a few minutes, the company plans to sell another batch in late July. As these are used items, ANA Trading added a note saying, "Though they have been cleansed and inspected, frequency of use, scratches and smudges vary among items."

    A control stick sold online is seen in this photo provided by All Nippon Airways Co.

    Since April, the company has also offered lottery sales of parts from retired Boeing 767-300 planes, which included four thrust levers priced at 1.2 million yen (about $10,900) each, four control sticks for between 750,000 yen (about $6,800) and 800,000 yen (about $7,300) each, nine cockpit ceiling panels for 220,000 yen ($2,000) each, and three sets of mock-up passenger seats for between 600,000 yen (about $5,500) and 700,000 yen (about $6,400) each. More than 80 people applied to buy the control sticks.

    Commenting on the reason for the items' popularity, aviation photographer Charlie Furusho said, "There was always demand for these items. Airlines have begun to sell such goods, which have rarely been sold before, to boost revenue." Furusho has been selling aircraft components for many years at a store in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, and via an online shopping site. He uses cabin service carts for food and drink storage in his kitchen and as a file cabinet in his office. "They are very convenient and functional," he said.

    (Japanese original by Tadakazu Nakamura, Narita Bureau)

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