JAL comforts Philippine passengers

Amidst bankruptcy declaration

January 22, 2010

TOKYO - Japan Airlines (JAL) sought to reassure the traveling public in the Philippines that it will keep flying despite declaring bankruptcy as it plans to keep flight to Manila which the airline said is not one of its unprofitable routes.

The national carrier also announced that it intends to retire its 37 Boeing 747-400s, axe 15,700 jobs almost equivalent to one-third of its workforce, and cut unprofitable routes.

JAL has a fleet of 279 aircraft with more than 70 on order, including 35 Boeing 787s. It serves 217 destinations in 35 countries. It intends to continue flying the Philippines using a much smaller Boeing triple seven and B767 series planes.

The debt-laden carrier has apologized for causing "tremendous worries to customers" and promised that "JAL will keep flying" and that passengers' air miles will remain valid.

"Please be reassured and use us as before," the company pleaded.

The once iconic airline, a symbol of Japan's rise to prosperity, filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday with 26 billion dollars in debt in the country's biggest post-war corporate failure outside the financial sector.

JAL, which carries more than 50 million passengers a year, is set to receive almost 10 billion dollars in public funds and emergency loans under a three-year turnaround plan.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange will delist JAL shares by February 20, a move expected to wipe out shareholders' investments.

The company has made no announcement regarding its tie-up talks with American and Delta Air Lines, which are in a bidding war for a slice of the carrier, eyeing its lucrative Asian landing slots.

JAL is understood to prefer switching its alliance from the American Airlines-led oneworld grouping to SkyTeam with Delta.

But it is expected to take some time for JAL and Delta to clear anti-trust hurdles and get approval from US authorities for joint operations.

The government has tapped Kazuo Inamori, a 77-year-old entrepreneur, business guru and ordained Buddhist monk, to run the stricken airline during its overhaul, replacing Haruka Nishimatsu, who resigned as president Tuesday.

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