Japan Airlines sued by fired pilots and flight attendants


Tokyo – Nearly 150 former employees of Japan Airlines sued the company Wednesday, demanding their jobs back.

The 146 pilots and flight attendants filed suit in Tokyo District Court on the first anniversary of JAL’s filing for bankruptcy protection.

The airline underwent major restructuring in 2010. Most of the staff reduction came through voluntary retirements, but the airline fired 165 employees at the end of 2010 to achieve targets.

The airline cut nearly 30% of its workforce — more than 16,000 employees — based on a court-approved restructuring plan.

JAL representative Hideo Seto urged people to focus on the positive.

“We would like you to understand the fact that we have protected 36,000 jobs rather than how many people we laid off,” Seto said. “We used the public money and eliminated many aircraft. Therefore we need to cut staff who works there. We have no other way than firing the employees.”

The airline’s chairman, Kazuo Inamori, said Wednesday JAL had a “bright outlook.”

“We all have worked hard to reduce costs and, as you know, we have achieved a financial result far exceeding the rehabilitation plan,” the 78-year-old chairman said.

“In that sense, we have a bright outlook for JAL’s reconstruction,” he said after a visit to maintenance crews working on a jumbo jet.

“My biggest concern was how the morale of workers was affected by the major restructuring, which was really a tragedy,” said Inamori. “Fortunately, they are all in good spirits and working hard for the company’s reconstruction.”

Under the drastic restructuring plan based on the Corporate Rehabilitation Law, the former national flag carrier got a debt waiver of 520 billion yen (about $6.3 billion) from banks.

It also got a 350 billion yen (about $4.3 billion) cash injection from the quasi-governmental Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corporation of Japan (ETICJ) in return for delisting its stocks, cutting more than 16,000 employees, 44 aircraft and 51 flight routes in 2010.

It achieved a dramatic turnaround in the first 8 months, making 146 billion yen in profit. It is aiming to list its stocks again by the end of 2012.

Japan’s airline industry expects even tougher competition as low cost airlines are trying to join the market.

“Competing only in low price would be very dangerous as we are not yet strong enough financially and structurally. Rather than becoming such an airline, we would like to aim to remain as a high-quality airline,” said Inamori.

Meanwhile, JAL announced a new logo in a news conference.

“We will depart from the past and create a new JAL,” airline president Masaru Onishi said, expressing JAL’s “gratitude for the chance given to us a year ago.”

The new logo is a soaring Japanese red-crown crane with its wings extended in full flight. The design was changed a little from the original trademark that went out of use in 2008.

“We decided to employ the logo design using JAL’s original trademark crane motif to symbolize our determination returning to the challenging spirit we had at the foundation of this company,” said Onishi.