The new leaders of Japan Airlines said Monday the carrier will decide on its alliance partner "as soon as possible" but wouldn't provide a timeframe for a decision on sticking with American Airlines or shifting to Delta.
Speaking at his first press conference as president, Masaru Onishi told reporters that discussions were continuing within JAL and the company's stance was "neutral."
"Under new management, the company is seriously reviewing the issue from scratch, without being influenced by previous discussions," he said.
Japan's flagship airline filed for bankruptcy two weeks ago with $25.6 billion in debt and is planning a major restructuring under new leadership.
Their first major decision will be to pick an alliance — oneworld or SkyTeam.
American and Delta Air Lines are locked in a heated battle for JAL and its lucrative Asian routes. At stake: a big revenue stream, more power to help shape overseas customer options and ticket prices and the potential to one day fly aircraft and passengers on JAL's routes.
Delta and its partners have offered JAL $1 billion to leave oneworld. American and its partners say they will give JAL $1.4 billion to stay.
New chairman Kazuo Inamori declined to provide details of talks, except to say they were ongoing.
Under its restructuring, JAL will slash nearly 16,000 jobs, reduce pensions for retired staff, cut routes and shift to more fuel-efficient aircraft. Its shares will be delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange Feb. 20, wiping out investors.
Inamori, the 78-year-old founder of Kyocera Corp., was tapped to lead JAL through the process. He described JAL as a "symbol of Japan to the rest of the world" and expressed confidence that the restructuring would be successful.
"It's very important that we resurrect JAL for the country and its economy," he said, sitting to Onishi's right.
Inamori acknowledged Monday that he was new to the airline industry and repeatedly reminded reporters that he had only been on the job a few days. But he said he brings to the job decades of experience as a proven business leader.
Inamori also founded Japan's No. 2 mobile carrier KDDI Corp. and is a respected entrepreneur with unique management ideas. He became a Buddhist monk after retiring and extols "amoeba management" theories, in which each business unit is self contained and generates its own revenue.
He has written 11 books on management and achievement, including "Respect the Divine and Love People" and "Your Dream Will Come True Without Fail."
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