Japan Airlines Corp. CEO and Chairman Kazuo Inamori on Tuesday dismissed the possibility of a merger with another airline in the near future, stressing that the former flagship carrier will exit ongoing court-led restructuring as an independent corporation.

“I am now working to restructure JAL, based on my belief that there should be two (large Japanese) carriers,” Inamori told reporters at the Japan National Press Club. “With only one carrier, the price of tickets might go very high. To avoid this situation, JAL must fully revitalize and have fair competition with All Nippon Airways.”

Inamori said JAL isn’t thinking of going the merger route, at least “for the next few years,” but added this may change as time passes and the environment evolves.

Boasting that JAL’s operating profit for the April-December period was far better than planned under its rehabilitation — about ¥160 billion — Inamori said he hopes Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corp. of Japan, the government-backed body that injected ¥350 billion into JAL on Dec. 1, will recoup the money by 2013 as the airline group completes the restructuring process. ETIC is currently JAL’s sole shareholder.

“I think (JAL) can relist its shares by the end of next year,” said Inamori, 79, while cautioning nothing has been decided. Asked about JAL’s Dec. 31 dismissal of 165 pilots and cabin attendants, he said there was no other choice under the court-backed rehabilitation plan.

“If I’m asked about whether it was possible to keep the 165 people, as many of you may know, it’s not impossible. But (JAL) caused so much trouble to so many people. . . . The rehabilitation plan has gained court approval on the condition of reducing (JAL’s) personnel,” Inamori said.

On Jan. 19, 146 pilots and flight attendants filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court seeking to nullify the airline’s decision to fire them.

“Today’s JAL is based on the sacrifices of many. . . . (ETIC) will recoup the ¥350 billion in capital and we will keep working hard for JAL to regenerate,” Inamori stressed.

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