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DIALOGUE: Japan Airlines (JAL) 20th Anniversary Tianjin-Nagoya Route
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Japan Airlines (JAL)
20th Anniversary Tianjin-Nagoya Route
Exclusive interview with Mr. Yoshiharu Ueki
Chairman and Representative Director of Japan Airlines
By Yuka Yamada

Dialogue 01      日本航空公司(简称日航)是由日本政府于1953年10月1日立法成立的国有航空公司。主运营基地位于东京成田国际机场(国际线)及东京国际机场(国内线)。日本航空原为日本规模最大的航空公司,在2010年虽被全日空超越,但仍拥有日本各航空业者中最多的国际线航点及搭乘人次。

      4月19日,日本航空公司在天津市内举行了名古屋与中国天津航线开设20周年纪念典礼。据日航表示,名古屋-天津航线于中国加入世界贸易组织(WTO)前的1998年4月20日开通。对于日资企业而言,从天津到日本的定期旅客航班只有日航一家。受在天津市设有工厂的丰田汽车等日本企业相关旅客支持,该航班持续航行了20年。开通时每周两班,现在每天运行,每年平均约有5万人次搭乘。董事长植木义晴( Yoshiharu Ueki)先生致辞时表示感谢称:“考虑到撤出航线对日本企业自不用说,对天津经济也有很大影响,决定维持航线。此举获得了天津市政府、日资企业的支援,航线得以继续。”

      植木义晴先生自18岁起,从飞行员一步步努力,方取得了今天日航董事会主席的成就。对航空飞行事业的热爱是他最初选择飞向蓝天成为飞行员的动因。众所周知,日航曾经历过一段很艰难的时期,但是植木先生和日航同甘共苦挺了过来,他临危受命担任董事并和5万同事一起努力力挽狂澜。在公司步入正轨后,他采取了一系列措施发展日航,首先他改革了企业结构,随即整顿大家的思维方式,与此同时,他非常注重激励员工,珍惜员工。日航在他的带领下一步步发展壮大。

      谈及选择开通名古屋-天津航线的原因,他说名古屋是日本中午重要城市,与天津有着众多业务往来。丰田汽车公司的很多部件制造厂都在天津地区,每年都超过5万人次来往于这两个城市之间,这就是名古屋-天津航线受欢迎的原因。

      在航空服务品质方面,日航一直名列前茅。“日航员工在上岗前接受了严格的各项训练,以客户为导向一直是我们服务的宗旨”,植木先生说道。另外,头等舱的特色设计和个性化服务也为有需求的旅客提供了奢华舒适的享受,名厨精心制作的料理绝对可以让你在空中度过一个难忘的飞行体验。

       日本航空已经连续6年被评为最准时亚太航空公司之一。关于未来的发展,植木义晴说日航有三大愿景:一是将日航转变为真正的全球航空公司,实现可持续发展;二是继续扩大与航空公司合作伙伴的关系,并推出新航线;三是通过创新,为旅客提供更加舒适的旅行体验,创造刺激航空旅行的新业务,并采用新技术改善硬件品质。

      中国的航空业近年来蓬勃发展,这也与日航的发展不谋而合,相信日航将在未来为中日交流做出更大贡献,实现自己的目标与愿景。

Dialogue 02Japan Airlines is one of the most distinguished and well-established airline that offers routes to more than 56 countries, and makes it easier to connect with destinations both locally and internationally.
 

Commemorating the 20th anniversary of Japan Airlines’ Nagoya-Tianjin route indicates how far the company has gone in continuing to maintain its services in one of China’s booming metropolis. Bridging the distance between Japan and Tianjin not only provides a boost in both the countries’ tourism, but also expands business opportunities through JAL’s accessible flights. Under the pioneering influence of some of the company’s leading executives: Yuji Akasaka (Executive President), Junko Ohkawa (Vice Chairman of the Board) and Norikazu Saito (Senior Managing Executive Officer, Chief Director of Finance & Accounting Director), Japan Airlines continually strengthens and grows under their leadership.
 

The current Chairman and Representative Director of Japan Airlines, Mr. Yoshiharu Ueki, joined the company in 1975. He began his career as a pilot before being invited to become a member of the company’s executive board in 2005.
 

Business Tianjin Magazine had the exclusive opportunity to interact with Mr. Ueki about JAL’s recent and past performances and future challenges in this globalized world.

Dialogue 03Congratulations on becoming the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Japan Airlines on April 01st, 2018. You started your career as a pilot, what inspired you to work for the aviation industry?

More than 90% of those who become pilots are individuals who are really interested in airplanes. When I entered high school, I did not want to choose my university based on my national exam. I decided on what I wanted to be first, and it was to become a pilot. Since then I’ve been working my way through my career.
 

When you were invited to be a board member for JAL, what helped you make the decision to shift from a pilot to an executive of the company?

I became a director at the age of 57. I have been flying from the age of 18. More than 2/3rd of my life I only knew how to maneuver an airplane. Resigning from being a pilot was a very tough decision. I chose to abandon my flight career and become a director because the company went bankrupt.
 

A mudstone is floating and there are 50,000 employees. Although it may not be able to help everyone, if you leave it alone, this mudstone will surely sink into the ocean, and all 50,000 people will die. If I could save a single person by my own hand, I would not regret it even if I quit being a pilot. So, I quit being a pilot and decided to become a director on my own.

Dialogue 04When you were appointed President of Japan Airlines, the company’s economic situation was very critical. How did you rebuild your company to where it is today? What measures did you take to overcome the bankruptcy?

There are two, and one is to build a profitable system. In other words, we did a structural reform. Another thing is that we have reformed our mindset. Companies can be brought back by structural reform and reforming our mindset. I have done these two thoroughly and have rebuilt the company.
 

I took over as the president after the bankruptcy in the second year. For the past six years I have carried out business as president. As president, motivating the employees is important. There were 50,000 employees, and when the management collapsed there were only 33,000 left. The employees have not changed - they were all the same good and smart staff. We were still able to make a very high profit. You just need to motivate the employees; treasure them and tell them that you want them to be happy. For 6 years I managed that somehow, and that’s what I did.

Dialogue 05The 20th anniversary of the first direct flight from Nagoya to Tianjin is being commemorated this year. Why Tianjin and Nagoya? Please inform us how satisfactory this route is that connects directly Japan and Tianjin.

Nagoya is the main city of Chubu area. It has a lot of companies that enjoy business relations with Tianjin, such TOYOTA. Many of Toyota Motor Corporation's manufacturing plants and other companies are located in this area of Japan, and as you know, Toyota also has a manufacturing plant and many cooperation agreements in Tianjin.
 

Each year there are more than 50,000 people using Japan Airlines coming from Chubu, and this is what makes Nagoya and Tianjin route very popular.
 

What makes Japan Airlines different from other airlines? How do you distinguish yourself as one of the most well-respected airline company worldwide?

JAL has been focusing on high quality products and services. In addition to providing excellent products, a customer-oriented human-touch factor has been at the forefront of our services. Based on the concepts introduced in JAL Philosophy, our employees engage with our customers with a sense of gratitude.
 

JAL`s cabin crew and airport staff undergo a rigorous training program prior to serving customers in flight or at the airport. In addition, selected employees compete at events to test their customer service levels and to polish their skill set. These actions ultimately provide a world-class customer-oriented flight experience.
 

While striving for operational excellence, JAL will incorporate IoT and technology to continue improving customer service levels.

Dialogue 06Japan Airlines is one of the best 10 airlines in the world. What are the main factors that have enabled you to acquire this leading position?

JAL has been investing in its products and services to provide an improved customer experience through the highly acclaimed JAL SKY SUITE aircraft. First Class features a product that provides a sense of luxury with the highest levels of personalized service. In Business class, customers can experience unimpeded aisle access to their private fully flat seats. Premium Economy features an increased seat width that is 10cm greater than what it is in previous models while improving the seat`s basic functionalities. And, customers in Economy Class can enjoy JAL`s award winning seat with greater legroom thanks to an expanded seat pitch and slimmer seats. In the 787 aircraft, JAL Economy features 8 seats across, which allows for wider seats in a spacious cabin environment.
 

First and Business Class customers can enjoy special menus carefully arranged by renowned chefs while Premium Economy and Economy customers will have a flight full of delicious surprises that never fail to please.
 

For Japan Domestic flights, the carrier offers the ability to check-in seamlessly through JAL`S ‘Touch and Go’ service and an Express-Tag Service that provides passengers with a convenient and comfortable boarding experience by shortening the time required to check in baggage. During flights, customers can now take advantage of free Wi-Fi service throughout JAL`s domestic network.
 

Japan Airlines has been named the best on-time Asia-Pacific Major Airline for six consecutive years, and eighth overall for its domestic and international flights operated in calendar year 2017 by FlightStats Inc., a US flight status tracking company that analyzes on-time arrival rates for global airlines. JAL also took second place overall in Major International Airlines category. OAG Aviation Worldwide Limited, a company located in the U.K., presented JAL with a first-place award for on-time performance in 2017.

Dialogue 08What plans or goals do you have for the future of JAL?

The company has initiated a 10-year grand design. JAL has 3 major visions which we seek to achieve and that is to - transform JAL into a truly global airline, create new values one step ahead of its competitors, and lastly, to achieve sustainable growth. By utilizing the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, we will accelerate our growth through innovation and cater to the demand of targeted 40 million inbound visitors.
 

We will continue to expand and establish partnerships with our airline partners, as well as launch new flight routes to places such as Amami Islands in Okinawa, and a new route to the west coast of North America. In terms of travel experience, we will strive to go beyond the needs of our passengers by providing excellent quality and comfort to assure stress-free travel.
 

Aside from those, we aspire to reach our goals through innovation by concentrating on three aspects, namely providing stress-free travel experience for all our customers, creating new businesses and services that stimulate air travel demand, and adopting new technology and source capabilities to improve quality and productivity, and to innovate customer experience.
 

What motivates you still to lead the company?

Perhaps Chairman is the top of a company in Hong Kong. But in Japan, the president is at the top. I did this for 6 years. My motivation is that I just want to make my employees happy. If you think of it as drama, I've been a leading actor for six years, but there is another leading actor who has taken over as a new president, Mr. Akasaka. I think that it is my job to be a stagehand and prepare various things to make his work easier. That is the job of the chairman in Japan.
 

Do you live by any particular motto or mantra that you follow?

"Courage" to go through your beliefs is my mantra. To have that courage you must have "responsibility and preparedness". I have these two. For example, when I became the president, there were 33,000 employees in this company. There were various people here, and it was inevitable that we had disagreeable individuals. Sometimes they would cause an incident and as president, you will have to shoulder the responsibility of these 33,000 people in JAL group. I was prepared for this, and that is why as president having these beliefs helped me.

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