Japan Airlines is eagerly – but discreetly – counting down to 01-Apr-2017. The start of the new fiscal year in Japan is when JAL will be unshackled from growth restrictions imposed after JAL's bailout in 2010. United States Chapter 11 restructuring enables relatively quick growth on lower costs, but in Japan JAL's significant cost improvements over All Nippon Airways came with the penalty of not being permitted to fully realise business opportunities for a number of years.
JAL's first public business change is the relatively small, and expected, move of a New York flight from a Narita departure to Haneda, matching ANA. Bigger changes are expected with JAL's new management plan due in 1H2017.
ANA has significantly widened the gap with JAL, using JAL's restrictions as a once-in-a-lifetime unchallenged growth opportunity. JAL is expected to grow its network around its core North America-Asia segment. JAL will look to expand North America flights, but also East Asia and India.
Yet JAL, still scarred by bankruptcy and determined to be the first Asian airline to have consistently high and cyclical-proof margins, will seek modest, direct network growth. JAL will look to invest in other airlines and non-flying businesses.
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