Saturday, March 29, 2014

JAL Express to be absorbed by JAL on October 1st.

On March 26th, Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) announced that 100%-owned subsidiary JAL Express (JC/JEX) would be merged into JAL effective October 1st. JAL Express currently operates 39 Boeing 737-800s on domestic routes on behalf of its parent.
Boeing 737-846(WL) JA302J has been wearing 'Ganbaro Nippon' decals since the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami disaster. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

JAL Express was originally set up on April 1st, 1997 and inaugurated service on July 1st, 1998 as a lower-cost subsidiary taking over some of its parent's regional domestic routes with Boeing 737-400s transferred from JAL. It later went on to operate some McDonnell Douglas MD-81s JAL inherited from the merger with Japan Air System (JD/JAS) between 2005 and 2010, but with the transferring of its remaining B737-400s to sister Japan Transocean Air (NU/JTA) in 2011, the fleet was standardized on B737-800s. It currently forms the backbone of JAL's regional domestic network from Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT).

JAL Express formed the basis for the now lower-cost JAL. The carrier's flight attendants were originally called 'SkyCasts', where they were also responsible for cabin cleaning (mainline JAL hired outside firms just to clean the aircraft) and implemented quick turnaround times, increasing fleet utilization. Until the current uniforms were introduced in June 2013, 'SkyCasts' wore a red-based coat-style uniform, different from mainline JAL. It originally targeted a 20% reduction in overall costs compared to its parent.

Now that JAL has shed a lot of costs, especially during its bankruptcy, JAL employees essentially carry out the same tasks and amount of work that JAL Express staff do, so presumably, it became unnecessary to keep JAL Express. Furthermore, the majority of JAL Express' flight attendants are said to be on few-year contracts, so merging that employee base into JAL prevents them from joining other carriers, like the growing LCCs. This is similar to what ANA did when they upgraded all contracted employees to full-time staff last year to prevent a 'brain drain'.

Source: Japan Airlines, March 26th. (in Japanese)

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