) -- As a strongly motivated
battles to ensure its continued partnership with
Japan Air Lines
, other partners in the Oneworld alliance are also considering investment in JAL.
and the Australian carrier
are potential investors, said a person who is familiar with the negotiations between AMR's American Airlines and JAL.
In particular, British Airways is "deeply preoccupied" that JAL could partner with the SkyTeam alliance, which includes its rival
as well as
, the person said, noting, "All of the members of Oneworld, led by American, are profoundly interested in intensifying the relationship with JAL.
"American is extraordinarily motivated to maintain a successful partnership with JAL that is more than 10 years old, to keep them in Oneworld and to move forward with more intensive joint operations," the person said. "American will always make an offer superior to whatever Delta wants to do." A British Airways spokeswoman declined to comment and a Qantas spokesperson was not immediately available.
Financially troubled JAL is seeking to restructure and to raise funding from banks, investment funds and others including airlines. It wants about $300 million to $500 million from an airline partner or partners, as a share of the $2.7 billion it reportedly needs. The airline investment is viewed as an industry vote of confidence that would inspire other investors to participate.
JAL has the largest hub at Tokyo Narita, Asia's key airport because of its importance to Japan and its web of connections throughout the continent.
Currently, American and JAL are not only Oneworld partners, but also have a frequent flier partnership and a code-share that enables them to write tickets on one another's flights. In 2007, American moved into a JAL terminal at Narita, providing a key method to carry its passengers beyond Tokyo to points in Asia.
Various media outlets in the U.S. and Japan have reported that Delta is bidding for JAL, potentially in concert with partner AirFrance/KLM. Delta already operates a hub at Narita, which it obtained as part of its 2008 merger with Northwest, which was awarded rights to fly beyond Tokyo into Asia in 1947. Delta serves Narita from seven cities in North America, Honolulu and 14 cities in Asia.
American believes its relationship with JAL is too valuable to give up. Additionally, it is American's contention that were JAL to ally with Delta, it would become a "junior partner."
Delta/Northwest has a 60-year-old Narita operation and currently competes with JAL on a variety of routes throughout Asia. By contrast, all of American's passengers beyond Narita are turned over to JAL. The two carriers also share a terminal.
Talks regarding JAL are proceeding rapidly. JAL said Tuesday it wants to have financing in place by October. The CEOs of Delta, Air France and KLM are scheduled to meet in Paris Wednesday to discuss the topic, the person said. A Delta spokeswoman declined to comment. An AMR team, which does not include CEO Gerard Arpey, has been meeting with JAL officials since last week.
Ongoing Open Skies negotiations between the U.S. and Japan play a role in JAL's strategy. If the bilateral aviation treaty between the two countries is indeed liberalized,
and its Star Alliance partner, Japanese carrier ANA, are expected to seek antitrust immunity that would enable them to freely discuss pricing and scheduling on trans-Pacific routes.
American and JAL agreed in June to pursue a similar strategy, but now the identity of JAL's U.S. partner is not quite as clear.
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.