JAPAN: US and Japan talk open-skies against JAL backdrop

A new open skies deal currently being negotiated between the US and Japan could hinge on a Japanese requirement that its domiciled carriers – specifically Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) – are granted antitrust immunity for tie-ups with their US partner airlines. ANA will seek immunity for its partnership with United Airlines […]


A new open skies deal currently being negotiated between the US and Japan could hinge on a Japanese requirement that its domiciled carriers – specifically Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) – are granted antitrust immunity for tie-ups with their US partner airlines.

ANA will seek immunity for its partnership with United Airlines and perhaps Continental, while its not clear yet what will be the outcome of the restructuring of financially troubled JAL. JAL is being courted by members of two rival global airline alliances who have reportedly offered cash as part of a bail-out investment deal.

“We’re clearly closer to open skies (with Japan) than we’ve ever been before,” says John Byerly, the US deputy assistant secretary of State who has negotiated all of the US’ open-skies treaties over the past eight years and who is leading the US delegation at the talks with Japan, according to a USA Today report.

The problem for the Japanese carriers however, is that the open skies agreements are negotiated by one department with another – the Transportation Department – having the final say on antitrust immunity.

If the US rejects either of the Japanese airlines’ immunity applications, the Japanese government would have the option of not implementing the openskies deal. Officials at American Airlines – which has a 15-year-old trans-Pacific partnership with JAL – warned this will be the case if JAL’s management and its government-appointed panel overseeing its bailout, select Delta instead of American to be its US partner.