Chicago, Delhi, Bombay and Moscow.

These are some of the candidate international destinations picked by All Nippon Airways Co.’s next president for resumption of flights to and from Japan in the next few years.

Mineo Yamamoto is considering overseas expansion as the nation’s second-largest airline expects to bring its international operations into the black for the first time ever in the year to March.

“The point is whether there is solid demand for business travelers,” Yamamoto, who will replace Yoji Ohashi as president in April, said in a recent interview with The Japan Times. “We need to carefully study the market to assess the profitability of each route.”

Yamamoto pointed out two other factors to consider in overseas expansion: using the right size of planes depending on demand in each region; and taking advantage of the network covered by Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline coalition, which ANA joined in 1999.

“The introduction of Boeing 787 jets begins in May 2008 and we will take this opportunity to review and reconstruct our international network,” he said.

Under ANA’s fleet plan, the 200- to 300-seat Boeing 787s will replace the carrier’s midsize jets, including its Boeing 767-300s.

As a member of Star Alliance, ANA must increase its presence by expanding throughout Asia, Yamamoto said. The alliance has 15 members, including United Airlines of the United States and Lufthansa of Germany.

ANA launched regular international flights in 1986, 32 years after rival Japan Airlines Co., in an effort to catch up.

ANA’s dominance in the domestic market has enabled the carrier to use domestic profits to cover losses from its international operations.

But the 2002 merger of Japan Airlines Co. and Japan Air System Co. eroded ANA’s dominance.

More importantly, the decline in international passengers following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks forced ANA to cut back unprofitable international routes. Six of them, including Chicago, are still suspended.

The SARS outbreak and the war in Iraq in 2003 added to its difficulties. Rising fuel prices are an ongoing concern.

Well aware of the industry’s vulnerability to volatile market conditions, ANA has been trying hard to slash costs to maintain profitability.

In April, it instituted a 5 percent wage cut for all employees and an additional 2.5 percent reduction in special allowances paid to pilots.

As the director in charge of labor management, Yamamoto led negotiations with unions for three years from April 2001 and reached a settlement without a strike.

This might be envied by some ailing U.S. carriers struggling to persuade unions to agree to lower wages.

Current President Ohashi has cited Yamamoto’s tenaciousness and honesty as the key to the successful labor negotiations.

“You cannot unilaterally convince (employees) by suddenly asking them to share a sense of crisis,” the soft-spoken Yamamoto said. “Encouraging dialogue between management and individual employees on a daily basis, whether in good times or bad, is essential to promote understanding.”

ANA achieved its 30 billion yen cost-reduction target on a parent-only basis one year ahead of schedule during the fiscal 2003-2004 period. It now aims to slash another 10 billion yen over three years from fiscal 2005 by promoting groupwide efforts.

“By reviewing the role of each company to the level of every single worker, we will streamline the entire group,” Yamamoto said.

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