Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Consolidated Airlines Group and former British Airways boss, has confirmed that he is interested in a tie-up with Japan Airlines. The Tokyo based carrier recently emerged from bankruptcy protection and Japan’s Enterprise Turnaround Initiative, the state-run fund which was responsible for bailing the airline out, has said it will be looking to sell its share of the company by the beginning of 2013.
Mr Walsh’s announcement comes as All Nippon Airways, Japan’s largest carrier, announced plans for a tie-up with Lufthansa, the second biggest carrier in Europe. Walsh has made no secret of his intention to expand IAG through consolidation with other international airlines. He has already had meetings with banks and Japan Airlines’ chairman and president.
The carrier has code-share agreements with British Airways as both belong to the Oneworld airline alliance. This enables both companies to sell tickets on each other’s schedules. As part of its restructuring plans, Japan Airlines has cut around a third of its workforce and retired some of its older aircraft.
SkyTeam members Air France-KLM and Delta Airlines tried to lure Japan Airlines away from Oneworld with an investment offer recently, a deal which the carrier rejected. Next month will see the completion of a tie-up deal with American Airlines which will involve cooperation on a number of transatlantic routes including Beijing-Chicago and New York-Tokyo.
Walsh said that IAG would like to get involved in similar deals by teaming British Airways with Japan Airlines on routes between Europe and Asia.