JAL’s new bosses neutral on tieup pick

by Kazuaki Nagata

Japan Airlines Corp.’s new management team said Monday they will examine from scratch alliance talks with U.S. carriers American Airlines Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc.

New JAL President Masaru Onishi said during his first news conference that internal discussions are ongoing and the carrier has a “neutral” stance.

Speculation had been rife that JAL will form a business tieup with Delta and switch to the Delta-led SkyTeam global airline alliance. It is currently part of the oneworld grouping led by American Airlines.

Onishi along with new Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Inamori said they will break away from the past to reconstruct the airline now that its rehabilitation process has started.

“As a longtime business manager, JAL’s reconstruction will be possible if the rehabilitation plan is (carefully carried out),” Inamori said.

JAL, which filed last month for protection under the Corporate Rehabilitation Law , is undergoing rehabilitation under the government-backed Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corp. of Japan.

ETIC is planing to cut 15,661 JAL jobs, or about 30 percent of its workforce, by the business year ending in March 2013.

It also plans to terminate 31 routes and sell about half of JAL’s affiliate companies and to concentrate on its core airline business.

Inamori, the charismatic founder of Kyocera Corp., also said JAL must change its corporate culture as the firm has often been criticized as bureaucratic and too dependent on the government, given it was half-nationalized in the past.

On the future of the airline’s international flight operations, Inamori said JAL plans to thrive on both domestic and international routes, saying people can hardly imagine JAL without international flights.

Inamori replaced CEO Haruka Nishimatsu, who resigned Jan. 19. He founded Kyocera when he was 27 and turned the company into one of the nation’s major electronics makers.