Recent operational troubles at Japan Airlines (JAL) have led to several high-level demotions and the earlier-than-planned retirement of chief executive Isao Kaneko, writes Nicholas Ionides.

Early this month, Kaneko announced his plans to retire as chief executive in June and his replacement by company veteran Toshiyuki Shinmachi, although he said he would remain as chairman.

But JAL now says Kaneko is stepping down as chief executive nearly three months earlier than planned to take responsibility for the operational incidents that prompted a highly unusual public reprimand from the Japanese government.

Shinmachi will now take over as chief executive on 1 April. JAL confirms Kaneko is stepping down early "to take responsibility for a series of incidents that have drawn reprimands from the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport".

Shinmachi, who is president of holding company JAL Corp, will also now take over the presidency of main operating divisions JAL International and JAL Domestic.

JAL International's current president Katsuo Haneda will be demoted to executive vice-president of the three main JAL Group companies – JAL Corp, JAL International and JAL Domestic – on 1 April, while JAL Domestic president Mitsuo Komatsubara will remain on the board as a senior vice-president, but will retire in June.

Other demotions include that of representative director and senior managing director Takenori Matsumoto to managing director, and of JAL Corp and JAL International executive vice-president Hidekazu Nishizuka to senior managing director.

The changes follow public reprimands from the government, including one for an incident where JAL failed to report that one of its aircraft began a take-off run without air traffic control approval. JAL was also rapped for using the wrong parts on the landing gear of a Boeing 747 freighter.

Source: Flight International