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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Japan''s airlines taking steps to enhance halal meal services

Japan's biggest carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) will forge a business alliance with the world's largest provider of in-flight halal meals in an effort to better cater to passengers that follow the dietary laws of Islam, a top-selling business daily here reported Friday.

Under the deal, Brahim's Holdings of Malaysia will share its knowledge of halal cooking with the Japanese airline, providing recipes and helping it gain the skills of kitchen management required for halal certification, which is a prerequisite if ANA is to provide halal meals of its own, according to the Nikkei Shimbun.

ANA currently contracts out to certified in-flight caterers for the halal meals it serves on its flights, but the company would like to be able to make the meals itself so it can broaden its halal menu and capture more business from people visiting Japan from places like Asia and the Middle East, it said. The carrier hopes to offer its own halal meals starting from the second half of fiscal 2014.

Meanwhile, international airports in Japan are striving to become friendlier to Muslims amid a steep rise in visitors from the Islamic world, such as an increase in private prayer rooms for Muslims and availability of halal meals, the newspaper has reported earlier.

Last month, Narita International Airport near Tokyo put up a new sign saying "Prayer Room" for Muslims in front of private rooms in its first and second terminals. Each room is covered with a carpet and a direction panel on the ceiling so that Muslims can readily fall to their knees and pray in the direction of their holy place Mecca. The rooms, called Silence Rooms, could be used for prayer in the past but had no Prayer Room sign. In the past, many Muslims did not know of the existence of the private rooms in Narita airport, according to the daily.

Japan relaxed the rules for issuance to visas to visitors from Indonesia, Malaysia and three other Southeast Asian nations in July. Muslims account for an estimated 90 percent of Indonesia's 240 million population and 60 percent of Malaysia's 29 million. By summer, furthermore, two prayer rooms will be built in the area where passengers walk through after embarkation procedures. Haneda International Airport in downtown Tokyo will also open a prayer room by March.

Kansai International Airport in western Japan, which created a prayer room in 2006, will open two more rooms by spring. The airport has also started joint efforts with tenants in its passenger terminal building to better receive visitors from the Islamic world. Starting last summer, a noodle shop and another restaurant began serving halal meals

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