JAL and Open Skies Between Japan & U.S. - Key Issues and Implications

by: Vaughn Cordle, CFA

  • The US-Japan deal under negotiations is being designed so that it will only come into effect after the Japanese receive ATI with their US partners
  • ATI with the Japanese carriers is seen as parallel to American Airlines/British Airways (Despite delay, AA-BA approval is widely expected)
  • While the economic benefits of a JAL DL deal are more valuable,there is a political concern about informing AA of a switch.
  • On the other hand there is no reluctance to express disappointment with BA and the fact that London Heathrow is not a good connecting market for Europe. AF-KLM is a better European partner because of geography.
  • Without a Japanese partner, Delta’s (NYSE:DAL) Japanese routes are not doing well DL’s Japanese routes are collateral for their recent credit line. As a result DL couldn't shift the service if they wanted to.
  • Of particular interest is the DOT requirement for ATIs to have a Metal Neutral JV.
With regard to the US portion of this information, there are the following political elements that affect the equations:
  • Open Skies with the Japanese is a product of All Nippon Airways (OTCPK:ALNPY) and United Airlines (UAUA) efforts in Japan
  • This administration is a product of the Chicago political machine. The DOT Secretary and the General counsel are historically connected to Chicago politics. AA and UA are Chicago hubbed carriers who are keenly familiar with Chicago politics and are important elements of Chicago economics and commerce.
  • It is widely viewed here that JAL is not as important as ANA to the new Japanese government
  • Until DL is able to persuade JAL to become a partner, it is using its political clout to oppose open skies with Japan
  • JAL’s need for restructuring complicates its ability to seek government support in open sky negotiations. Japanese culture suggests that JAL’s CEO will have to resign as soon as a restructuring is achieved with the government.