Japan Airlines snubs Delta’s SkyTeam group

Japan Airlines said yesterday it would keep its partnership with American Airlines in the Oneworld alliance, ending an attempt by Delta Air Lines to entice the bankrupt carrier to its rival SkyTeam group.

Asia’s largest carrier by revenues said it would file with American Airlines for regulatory approval for closer cooperation on transpacific routes under a recently signed “open skies” treaty between the United States and Japan.

The decision is a blow to Delta which had been courting the Japanese carrier for months with an offer of $1bn in financial aid, eager to gain access to its vast network in Asia and position itself for an expansion of Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.

Prior to its bankruptcy last month with $25bn in debt, JAL was leaning toward Delta, attracted by the potential for cost cuts and revenue growth offered by its larger route network, especially in Asia.

But JAL’s new management team, put in place this month and led by chief executive Kazuo Inamori, decided switching alliances risked derailing its efforts to revive itself in three years with the help of a government-backed fund. JAL joined Oneworld in 2007.