Japan Airlines Co., which is considering a venture on European routes with British Airways, may also seek a similar tieup with Air France to bolster operations on the continent.
“Our alliance with British Airways is the key,” JAL President Masaru Onishi said in an interview at the carrier’s Tokyo headquarters Friday. “If we can cover all of Europe with them, which would include Iberia as well, then we won’t need other joint ventures. If not, we’ll look to other airlines.”
JAL may also boost cooperation with other oneworld members, including Finnair Oyj on European routes, Onishi said, as it offsets cuts made to its overseas network during a government-backed restructuring. The carrier has already formed a venture with AMR Corp.’s American Airlines that sets fares, sells tickets and decides schedules on trans-Pacific routes to boost sales and pare costs.
“We want to build similar agreements in Europe to our North American one,” Onishi said. The airline now flies to four cities in Europe, after halting flights to Amsterdam, Milan and Rome as part of its turnaround.
Onishi declined to say when he expected to reach an agreement with BA and other carriers. BA and Iberia completed a merger earlier this year, forming International Consolidated Airlines Group SA. All Nippon Airways Co., Japan’s largest listed carrier, has already agreed to a similar tieup on European routes with Deutsche Lufthansa AG, which will come into effect in October.
Oneworld allows carriers to cooperate with airlines in different groupings, so Air France’s membership in SkyTeam wouldn’t prevent a tieup, Onishi said. JAL codeshares on Air France flights to 13 cities, including Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf and Hamburg, according to its website.
“We could expand our business in Europe with Air France and KLM,” said Onishi. Air France-KLM owns the two European airlines.
JAL’s venture with American Airlines, which began in April, covers 10 routes between Asia and North America, including New York-Tokyo and Beijing-Chicago. The carriers predicted a combined ¥13 billion ($166 million) in annual sales and cost-cutting gains from the accord.
“We’ve boosted our competitiveness on trans-Pacific routes,” Onishi said. “We’ve been able to improve cooperation, and so we’re moving to the second stage, which is making it stronger,” he said without elaboration.
JAL last week reported operating profit of ¥17.1 billion for the three months that ended June 30, an increase of 4.3 percent from a year earlier. Tokyo-based All Nippon had a first-quarter operating loss of ¥8.1 billion after Japan’s largest earthquake on record and ensuing nuclear disaster sapped travel.
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