International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (IAG), owner of British Airways and Spain’s Iberia, may increase flights to Japan under a venture it is discussing with Japan Airlines Co. (9205) to take advantage of rising demand.
“There is a real opportunity to look at new services,” IAG Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh said in Tokyo today. It also wants to expand services to China via Japan, he said.
British Airways, which flies to Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda airports, is aiming to expand its Asian services when it starts to receive Boeing Co. (BA) 787s, Walsh said. Tokyo-based All Nippon Airways Co. (9202), JAL’s larger rival, said it has more than doubled transfer passengers at Narita airport, its main international hub, since it began ventures with Deutsche Lufthansa AG and United Continental Holdings Inc. last year.
“We look to expand a number of destinations in Asia when we get our Boeing 787 planes,” Walsh said. “We’re looking at serving China. There is good connectivity between Japan and China.”
British Airways has 24 Boeing 787 Dreamliners on order, according to Boeing’s website. The carrier is set to start receiving them from next year.
IAG, as International Consolidated Airlines is known, would consider taking a stake in JAL as long as the Tokyo-based airline agrees, Walsh said. The Japanese carrier is set to sell shares as early as September after exiting bankruptcy last year.
“It would only be if an investment were welcomed by Japan Airlines,” Walsh said. “It represents a great opportunity for us in the future.”
JAL, which cut about one-third of its staff and retired about 100 planes under bankruptcy protection, is a member of IAG’s Oneworld global alliance and already has code-share deals with BA, through which the carriers sell tickets on each other’s flights as if they were their own. The carrier started a venture with AMR Corp.’s American Airlines on Pacific routes last year.
IAG fell 2.6 percent to 160.80 pence in London on March 9. The stock has gained 9.1 percent this year, compared with a 5.7 percent increase in the benchmark FTSE 100 Index.
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