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JAL chairman seeking Asian partners to boost passenger numbers

DUBLIN -- Japan Airlines is trying to boost its value-added brand image, and to do that, Chairman Masaru Onishi said, the carrier is "looking for travel agencies for tie-ups in China and Southeast Asia."

He made the remark Thursday in an interview with The Nikkei during his visit to Dublin for the general meeting of the International Air Transport Association. Global aviation leaders were gathered in Ireland's capital city for the annual event.

JAL is a member of the oneworld alliance, which is made up of international airlines, but with a little presence of major companies in Asia. Japan's national flag carrier aims to join hands with promising travel agencies to win more passengers in Asian markets. Onishi also said that the company wants to make such deals "as soon as possible."

In China and Southeast Asia, demand for air travel is growing fast, and Onishi said that many travelers there are low-price oriented. Meanwhile, JAL is taking steps to establish a high value-added brand image. According to Onishi, the airline intends to attract wealthier customers who can afford to pay for its services. "In this, local travel agencies have advantages," Onishi added.

He also touched on the positive results from the company's code-sharing operations in partnership with British Airways and Finnair in Europe, and American Airlines in North America. He said this is a factor providing a push for JAL to expand its business in Asia.

The global airline industry is expected to see its net profits jump 12% on the year to a record $39.4 billion in 2016, thanks to a steady global travel demand and low fuel costs, IATA said Thursday.

Net profits in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to mark an 8% year-on-year rise to $7.8 billion, exceeding the figure in Europe, where net profits are expected to increase only 1% on the year to $7.5 billion.

Global passenger numbers are expected to increase 6% on the year to 3.78 billion. IATA chief economist Brian Pearce noted that Chinese travelers are rising in number despite the current economic slowdown. Airline demand is growing rapidly in India, too.

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