TOKYO–Japan Airlines has lodged a complaint over Tokyo awarding twice as many lucrative landing slots at a major airport to rival All Nippon Airways, the carrier’s boss said Friday. The “unfair” decision at Haneda airport — an apparent attempt to level the playing field after the government bailed out once-bankrupt JAL — would cost the airline about 6.0 billion yen (US$62 million) annually, JAL President Yoshiharu Ueki said. The carrier has sent a letter to transport officials demanding an explanation. “We are well aware of the criticism leveled against us for receiving public funds,” Ueki told reporters in Tokyo. But “this process has not been transparent and we think (the decision) is irrational.” He also warned its partner carriers, including American Airlines and British Airways, would also be negatively affected. In a written statement this week, American Airlines said it was “disappointed” by the ministry’s decision, and called for JAL to get an “equitable” share of slots.
“The Japanese public deserves a healthy competitive environment that promotes competition between airlines without favor to any carrier,” it added. A spokeswoman for British Airways parent IAG said it was “naturally disappointed by the slots decision”. On Wednesday, the government said ANA would get 11 of 20 new international take-off and landing slots at the airport in Tokyo bay, the world’s fourth-busiest hub. JAL, which had expected to share the slots evenly with its main domestic rival, got just five with the remaining four slots to be distributed in the future. ANA has routinely criticized its rival’s monster bailout, which saw it rise from the ashes and re-list its shares in Tokyo last year after an offering that raised a whopping US$8.5 billion, one of the biggest globally in 2012. JAL posted strong earnings after its re-listing, making it the most profitable airline in the world. Haneda is a lucrative location with better access to Tokyo’s downtown than suburban Narita airport, which is a major international gateway to Japan. The country’s transport ministry is aiming to boost international flights at both airports in anticipation of big influx of visitors for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.