BRITISH AIRWAYS is now focusing attention on Japan Airlines (JAL) as a possible strategic partner in Asia, following the UK carrier's recently announced tie-up with American Airlines.

BA executive chairman Sir Colin Marshall travelled to Tokyo to meet JAL chairman Susumu Yamaji shortly after unveiling a code-sharing deal with American (Flight International, 19-25 June). "It was more than a courtesy call," says an airline source.

Discussions are understood to centre on areas of possible future co-operation between the two flag carriers. BA has long been looking for a partner in Asia, to complement its existing alliances with Qantas and USAir. The UK airline declines to comment.

BA had previously held talks with Japan's second international carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA). Co-operation between the two has progressed no further than a shared frequent-flyer programme. One BA source says that trying to reach agreement with the Japanese is like "-trying to nail jelly to a wall".

BA and JAL already have a high degree of synergy through their co-operative tie-ups with other foreign airlines. JAL has been engaged in on-off discussions with Qantas on code-sharing services between Japan and Australia. Qantas chief executive James Strong is understood to have privately prompted JAL to widen its talks to include BA.

American and JAL, in the meantime, have been looking to further develop their co-operation. They hold stakes in each other's computer-reservation systems, they operate a shared frequent-flyer programme and provide reciprocal cargo representation.

A full partnership between JAL and American faces a similar hurdle to BA's proposed tie-up with American, however, the US Department of Transportation (DoT) is demanding new open-skies agreements, before approving any code-sharing arrangement.

The DoT has blocked plans by ANA and Delta Airlines code-share flight between Tokyo and Los Angeles from 1 September, until all outstanding disputes are resolved. United Airlines is understood to be holding talks with Japan Airlines over cargo co-operation.



Source: Flight International