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Major Japanese airlines, struggling with weak passenger traffic amid the coronavirus pandemic, have started seconding more employees to other companies and organizations.

Beginning in April, Japan Airlines increased the number of seconded employees to about 1,400 per day from 1,000.

According to ANA Holdings Inc., the parent of All Nippon Airways, the cumulative number of seconded ANA group employees since October last year reached about 750, far above its initial plan of some 400.

Amid deteriorating earnings due to the virus crisis, the airlines are trying to reduce personnel costs by asking companies and organizations that accept their employees to shoulder wages and other costs.

JAL cabin attendants and other employees have been transferred to about 120 organizations, including the Kagoshima Prefectural Government and home electronics retailer Nojima Corp.

Cabin attendants, who are highly skilled at interacting with customers, are much in demand from hotels, call centers and other private businesses.

The period of temporary transfers ranges from one day to two years.

Since the beginning of the current fiscal year on Thursday, an increasing number of employees have been sent to local governments, according to JAL.

ANA Holdings has sent employees to some 200 organizations, including the city governments of Himeji in Hyogo Prefecture and Urasoe in Okinawa Prefecture, as well as Seijo Ishii Co., a Lawson Inc. unit that operates high-end supermarkets. The period of secondment is about a half year to two years.

Anticipating a recovery in travel demand in the future, the airlines aim to retain the employees. They also hope to have the employees earn additional skills outside the companies and use them for airline operations someday.

Companies in other industries hit hard by the pandemic have also started seconding employees.

Major travel agency H.I.S. Co. plans to transfer around 1,000 employees to other companies.

Industry peer JTB Corp. has sent about 20 employees to work at the Universal Studios Japan movie theme park in the city of Osaka.

The labor ministry has created an aid program to provide the original employers of seconded workers and their host companies with subsidies to cover up to 90% of related expenses, including wages, with the upper limit set at ¥12,000 per day per employee.

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