Oneworld offers JAL $2 billion sweetener

by Kazuaki Nagata

American Airlines and other oneworld alliance partners said Tuesday that ailing Japan Airlines Corp. would make $2 billion in commercial benefits in the next three years if it stays in the fold.

American and U.S.-based private-equity firm TPG Inc. also raised their investment offer to $1.4 billion, up from 1.1 billion.

“This proposal demonstrates oneworld’s extraordinary commitment to JAL,” said Tom Horton, executive vice president of finance and planning and CFO of AMR Corp., American’s parent company.

“It brings stability and certainty to JAL at a time when it is most needed, as it faces turbulent times over the coming weeks and months,” Horton told a news conference in Tokyo that was also attended by executives of British Airways, Qantas Airways and Cathay Pacific.

According to oneworld, the expected three-year $2 billion revenue deal consists of $1.5 billion in ongoing revenues JAL receives from the alliance, $100 million in guarantees in new annual revenues for three years from American Airlines from a proposed trans-Pacific tieup, and $200 million in revenues expected from the enhanced partnership with British Airways.

With the open skies agreement between Japan and the U.S. set to kick off by October, American and JAL would apply for antitrust immunity, which enables airlines of different countries to act as if they are one company.

American said JAL can receive $100 million in added annual revenues through the immunity, and American will guarantee $100 million annually for the first three years.

British Airways said it plans to enhance its venture with JAL to yield $200 million in added revenue in three years. The venture includes more than doubling the European points on which it codes-shares with JAL.

For the past few months, Delta Air Lines and American have been in a battle for partnership with JAL.

Although both carriers have tried to top each other with the amount of capital investment offered, recent media reports said Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corp. of Japan, the government-backed body tasked with JAL’s rehabilitation, does not plan to accept capital investments from foreign airlines.

Other oneworld members also proposed support for JAL.

Rob Gurney, group executive of Australia-based Qantas, said his airline is willing to share expertise of its two-brand, low-cost carrier strategy.

Because EITC reportedly wants JAL to tie up with Delta, oneworld appeared to grow more desperate to keep JAL on board.

JAL is essential for oneworld’s marketing strategy in the Pacific because it is the only member with a large share of U.S.-Japan routes.