Japan Airlines Co., Ltd. (JAL) (日本航空株式会社 Nihon Kōkū Kabushiki-gaisha?, TYO: 9201), is the largest airline company in Japan. It is headquartered in Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan; and its main hubs are Tokyo's Narita International Airport and Tokyo International Airport (Haneda Airport), as well as Osaka's Kansai International Airport and Osaka International Airport. JAL group companies include Japan Airlines (the flag carrier for Japan), J-Air, JAL Express, Japan Air Commuter, Japan Transocean Air and Ryukyu Air Commuter for domestic feeder services; and JAL Cargo for cargo and mail services.
JAL group operations include scheduled and non-scheduled international and domestic passenger and cargo services to 220 destinations in 35 countries worldwide, including codeshares. The group has a fleet of 279 aircraft. In the fiscal year ended 31 March 2009, the airline group carried over 52 million passengers and over 1.1 million tons of cargo and mail. Japan Airlines, J-Air, JAL Express, and Japan Transocean Air are members of the Oneworld airline alliance.
JAL was established in 1951 and became the national airline of Japan in 1953. After over three decades of service and expansion, the airline was fully privatized in 1987. In 2002, the airline merged with Japan Air System, Japan's third-largest airline and became the sixth largest airline in the world by passengers carried. Japan Airlines is currently an official sponsor of Japan Football Association, Japan national football team, Shimizu S-Pulse and Consadole Sapporo. All Nippon Airways, the second largest airline in Japan, is JAL's main competitor.
Japan Air Lines Co., Ltd. was established on 1 August 1951, with the government of Japan recognizing the need for a reliable air transportation system to help Japan grow in the aftermath of the World War II. The airline was founded with an initial capital of ¥100 million; and its headquarters located in Ginza, Chūō, Tokyo. Between 27 and 29 August, the airline operated invitational flights on a Douglas DC-3 Kinsei, leased from Philippine Airlines. On 25 October, Japan's first post-war domestic airline service was inaugurated, using a Martin 2-0-2 aircraft, named Mokusei, and crew leased from Northwest Airlines.
On 1 August 1953, the Diet of Japan passed the Japan Air Lines Company Act (日本航空株式会社法 Nihon Kōkū Kabushiki-gaisha Hō?), forming a new state-owned Japan Air Lines on 1 October, which assumed all assets and liabilities of its private predecessor. By 1953 the JAL network extended northward from Tokyo to Sapporo and Misawa, and westward to Nagoya, Osaka, Iwakuni and Fukuoka.
On 2 February 1954 the airline began international flights, carrying 18 passengers from Tokyo to San Francisco on a Douglas DC-6B City of Tokyo via Wake Island and Honolulu. The flights between Tokyo and San Francisco are still Flights 1 and 2, to commemorate its first international service. The early flights were advertised as being operated by American crews and serviced by United Air Lines in San Francisco.
The airline, in addition to the Douglas DC-3, Douglas DC-6B and Martin 2-0-2s, operated Douglas DC-4 and Douglas DC-7C during the 1950s. JAL flew to Hong Kong via Okinawa by 1955, having pared down its domestic network to Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka and Sapporo. By 1958 the Hong Kong route had been extended to Bangkok and Singapore. With DC-7Cs JAL was able to fly nonstop between Seattle and Tokyo in 1959.
In 1960 the airline took delivery of its first jet, a Douglas DC-8 named Fuji, introducing jet service on the Tokyo-Honolulu-San Francisco route. JAL went on to operate a fleet of 51 DC-8s, retiring the last of the type in 1987. Fuji flew until 1974 and was then used as a maintenance training platform until 1989; its nose section was stored at Haneda Airport and eventually put on public display at the JAL Sky Museum in March 2014.
JAL also began flying to Seattle and Hong Kong in 1960. At the end of 1961 JAL had transpolar flights from Tokyo to Seattle, Copenhagen, London and Paris via Anchorage, Alaska and to Los Angeles and San Francisco via Honolulu, Hawaii.
Source: ICAO Digest of Statistics for 1955, IATA World Air Transport Statistics 1960-2000
During the 1960s JAL flew to many new cities including Moscow, New York and Pusan. DC-8 flights to Europe via Anchorage started in 1961; flights to Europe via India started in 1962, initially with Convair 880s.
By 1965 Japan Air Lines was headquartered in the Tokyo Building in Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo. By this time over half of JAL's revenue was generated on transpacific routes to the United States and the airline was lobbying the United States for fifth freedom rights to fly transatlantic routes from the East Coast. The transpacific route was extended east from San Francisco to New York in November 1966 and to London in 1967; flights between San Francisco and London ended in December 1972.
Between 1967 and 1969 JAL had an agreement with Aeroflot to operate a joint service between Tokyo and Moscow using a Soviet Tupolev Tu-114. The flight crew included one JAL member, and the cabin crew had five members each from Aeroflot and JAL. The weekly flight started in April 1967; in May the schedule was 10 hr 35 min Moscow to Tokyo and 11 hr 25 min to return.
In 1972, under the 45/47 system (45/47体制 yon'go-yonnana taisei?), the so-called "aviation constitution" enacted by the Japanese government, JAL was granted flag carrier status to operate international routes. The airline was also designated to operate domestic trunk routes in competition with All Nippon Airways and Toa Domestic Airlines.
The signing of a Civil Air Transport Agreement between China and Japan on 20 April 1974, caused the suspension of air routes between the Taiwan and Japan on 21 April. A new subsidiary, Japan Asia Airways, was established on 8 August 1975, and air services between the two countries were restored on 15 September. During the 1970s the airline bought the Boeing 727, Boeing 747 and McDonnell Douglas DC-10 for its growing routes within Japan and to other countries.
Japan Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita and eleven others deplanes on steps in red colour, from a Japan Air Lines DC-10 marked with an Official Airline for Expo '90 Osaka, Japan logo and text
Former Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita deplanes from a JAL McDonnell Douglas DC-10 while on a state visit to the United States in 1989
In the 1980s the airline performed special flights for the Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko of Japan, Pope John Paul II and for Japanese prime ministers, until the introduction of the dedicated government aircraft using two Boeing 747-400, operated as Japanese Air Force One and Japanese Air Force Two. During that decade the airline introduced new Boeing 747-100SR, Boeing 747-SUD and Boeing 767 jets to the fleet, and retired the Boeing 727s and Douglas DC-8s.
In 1978 JAL started flights to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro via Anchorage and San Juan; the stopover was changed to Los Angeles in 1982 and to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1999. Until 2009 the airline operated fifth-freedom flights between New York and São Paulo and between Vancouver and Mexico City.
Japan began considering airline deregulation in the late 1970s, with the government announcing the abandoning of the 45/47 system in 1985. In 1987 Japan Airlines was completely privatized, and the other two airlines in Japan, All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Air System (JAS), were permitted to compete with JAL on domestic and international routes. Increased competition resulted in changes to the airline's corporate structure, and it was reorganized into three divisions: international passenger service, domestic passenger service, and cargo (including mail) service.
A McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft taxiing on the tarmac, with a yellowish grass strip in the foreground and buildings and fence in the background
JAL McDonnell Douglas DC-10 in 1989 to 2002 livery
Japan Airlines began the 1990s with flights to evacuate Japanese citizens from Iraq before the start of the Gulf War. In October 1990, Japan Air Charter was established, and, in September 1996, an agreement with The Walt Disney Company made Japan Airlines the official airline of Tokyo Disneyland. JAL Express was established in April 1997, with Boeing 737 aircraft. In the 1990s the airline encountered further economic difficulties stemming from recessions in the United States and United Kingdom, plus a domestic downturn. Following years of profit since 1986 the airline began to post operating losses in 1992. Cost-cutting, including the formation of the low-cost JAL Express domestic subsidiary and the transfer of tourist operations to JALways (the successor to Japan Air Charter), helped return the airline to profitability in 1999.
In 1997 the airline flew Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto to Peru to help negotiate in the Japanese embassy hostage crisis. Japan Airlines placed orders for Boeing 777s during the 1990s, allowing for fleet renewal. It was one of eight airlines participating in the Boeing 777 design process, shaping the design to their specifications.
An Airbus A300-600R in the air during take-off
A Japan Air System (JAS) Airbus A300-600R with JAL logo on the fuselage
In 2001, Japan Air System and Japan Airlines agreed to merge; and on October 2, 2002, they established a new holding company called Japan Airlines System (日本航空システム Nihon Kōkū Shisutemu?), forming a new core of the JAL Group. Aircraft liveries were changed to match the design of the new JAL Group. At that time the merged group of airlines was the sixth largest in the world by passengers carried.
On 1 April 2004, JAL changed its name to Japan Airlines International and JAS changed its name to Japan Airlines Domestic. JAS flight codes were changed to JAL flight codes, JAS check-in desks were refitted in JAL livery and JAS aircraft were gradually repainted. On 26 June 2004, the parent company Japan Airlines System was renamed to Japan Airlines Corporation.
Following the merger, two companies operated under the JAL brand: Japan Airlines International (日本航空インターナショナル Nihon Kōkū Intānashonaru?) and Japan Airlines Domestic (日本航空ジャパン Nihon Kōkū Japan?). Japan Airlines Domestic had primary responsibility for JAL's large network of intra-Japan flights, while JAL International operated both international and trunk domestic flights. On October 1, 2006, Japan Airlines International and Japan Airlines Domestic merged into a single brand, Japan Airlines International.
The airline applied to join Oneworld on October 25, 2005. Japan Airlines claimed that its Oneworld membership would be in the best interests of the airline's plans to further develop the airline group and its strong commitment to provide the very best to its customers. Japan Airlines, together with Malév and Royal Jordanian, joined the alliance on April 1, 2007.
On 1 April 2008, JAL merged the operations of its subsidiary Japan Asia Airways (JAA) into JAL mainline operations. JAA had operated all JAL group flights between Japan and Taiwan between 1975 and 2008 as a separate entity due to the special political status of Taiwan.