Masaru Onishi was an unlikely candidate for the top job at Japan Airlines. He joined in 1978 after graduating in engineering from Tokyo University, working in maintenance departments. For four years from 1997, he was in the corporate planning team before rising to senior positions within engineering and maintenance divisions once again.
It was only in 2009 that he was appointed president of JAL subsidiary Japan Air Commuter and a year later, after a management reshuffle following the bankruptcy, he was appointed president, spearheading the restructuring. He became chairman in January 2012 before the company re-listed in September.
Onishi’s engineering skills are handy amid the grounding of JAL’s Boeing 787s. Sources say he is fully aware of the technical issues and is the impetus behind some very hard questions JAL is privately asking Boeing.