Posts Tagged ‘JAL’

The sky becomes less of a limit for cabin attendants (unless you’re a man)

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Screen shot of ANA's new Airline School, which opens in October

Screen shot of ANA’s new Airline School, which opens in October

All Nippon Airways just announced a new hiring policy for cabin attendants (CA). Starting next year, new CAs will be full-time regular employees of the company. Since 1995, CAs at the company were hired as contract workers who could opt to become regular employees after three years. The reason for the change is tougher competition from low-cost carriers (LCCs). ANA says in order to ensure the best service for their patrons they want to offer flight attendants better employment security. Currently, ANA employs about 6,000 CAs, 1,600 of which are contract workers. Next year, if these 1,600 want to become regular employees they can. The company plans to hire 450 new CAs in 2014.

The contract system was adopted by both ANA and Japan Airlines (JAL) in the same year, when the bubble economy had ended and Japan was entering its long period of sluggish growth. The object was to keep personnel costs in check. JAL says it has no intention of abandoning its contract work system “for the time being.” Twenty percent of its 3,800 Japanese CAs are contract workers. LCCs Peach and Jetstar only hire CAs as contract workers, while Skymark offers its contract CAs regular employment after one year. Though ANA’s policy change means its personnel costs will rise, the company thinks it can offset these expenses with reduced training costs.

Presently, when an ANA CA’s contract expires, she is offered full-time employment, but she can also opt for another 3-year contract. Over the years, 80 percent of ANA’s CAs chose regular employment. Contract workers are paid by the hour, and during the initial training period the wage is less than ¥1,000. That goes up to about ¥1,200 an hour until the end of the contract. JAL pays even less, about ¥1,100. Typically, a cabin attendant earns about ¥2 million a year while she is a contract worker, which isn’t much but CAs, even contractors, have some perks, like access to inexpensive company housing. However, the difference between contract workers and regular workers is striking. In 2001, the average yearly pay for CAs in Japan was ¥6.79 million, reflecting the fact that their ranks were still dominated by full-time regular employees. By 2011 the average salary had dropped to ¥3.85 million, reflecting the dominance of contract workers and newer regular employees rather than veterans who make more due to seniority. Last year it was about ¥4.8 million.

Another factor that influences pay is employment longevity. On average, Japanese CAs remain in the business for 7.4 years, and their average age is 31.2. In the past, it was the most coveted job for women in Japan, though not necessarily for career reasons. It was considered a glamorous occupation during a time when Japan was still isolated from the world, and thus offered women the only chance for overseas travel. (It was also the best way to put one’s English language skills to use. At one time, all English conversation schools has special classes for aspiring flight attendants.) Also, it was considered the best way to find a good husband, since sutchi (stewardesses) were also coveted as wives by eligible bachelors.

It was something of a joke in the 60s and 70s that professional baseball players and sumo wrestlers married either TV announcers or JAL cabin attendants. That may explain why the average age remains low: few CAs continued to work after they married, and if they did they usually tried to get transferred to the position of “ground hostess,” which is even more glamorous since there are so few of them. Also, while both regular employees and contract workers can take maternity leave, only regular employees can ask for shorter hours after they return to work. Tokyo Shimbun says that 10 percent of contract workers quit before their option to become regular employees comes up and one of the main reasons is that they become pregnant.

There’s little doubt that management has a certain image of what CAs should be. Only 1 percent of CAs in Japanese airlines are men. Though it’s against the law to discriminate in terms of gender, it seems obvious that airlines hire women predominately, and Japanese men who want to become CAs know this. According to an article in Newsweek, European and Middle Eastern airlines actively recruit Japanese male cabin attendants. Of the Japanese CAs who work for European and Middle Eastern airlines, 10 percent are men. In Asia, the portion is the same as it is in Japan.

JAL pilots may become wage earners

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Hey, Delta pilots! How much do you make?

Hey, Delta pilots! How much do you make?

Under the Corporate Rehabilitation Law, financially nackered Japan Air Lines submitted its restructuring plan for 2010 to the Tokyo District Court last month. The plan pledged to cut some 16,000 employees within the whole corporate group. Reduction of about 10,000 jobs is already assured because a certain number of employees are slated to retire naturally and about 3,800 took optional early retirement. The remainder will transfer to subsidiaries outside the group. JAL has reportedly asked more employees to take early retirement, but not enough have come forward to accept the offer, which expires October 22. If they don’t, it means JAL may not be able to reach its 2010 goal.

Consequently, the airline is thinking of threatening workers with seiri kaiko, or “forced resignations” if not enough people take voluntary early retirement. Benefits are understandably worse for those thrown out of the company than for those who leave of their own “free will,” if you can call it that. The unions are, naturally, resisting this strong arm tactic.

Continue reading about JAL's restructuring

Stockholder coupons bite JAL in the butt

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

This ticket shop will pay more than twice as much for an ANA stockholder coupon as for a JAL coupon

This ticket shop will pay more than twice as much for an ANA stockholder coupon as for a JAL coupon

The crisis at Japan Airlines has indirectly introduced a lot of people to the fairly common practice of kabunushi yutai, meaning “privileges for stockholders.” The practice seems to be unique to Japanese corporations, which give special treatment to shareholders when there are no dividends to distribute. If the company is a manufacturer, it may actually give away its products or discounts on its products. In the case of JAL, shareholders received coupons that could be used for discounts of up to 50 percent on air fares, tours, hotels and other JAL-related services.

In the past couple of weeks these stockholder coupons have become a hot commodity. Because they are given away to stockholders and, according to the government entity that is overseeing JAL’s rehabilitation, coupons “so far issued” will be honored, their sale value has gone up a bit at so-called ticket shops.

Ticket shops are those retail businesses that resell travel tickets, gift coupons, postage, or anything that has a face value. Usually, people who receive such coupons and tickets for free (either as gifts or premiums or even as part of their job) sell them to ticket shops at below their face value, and then the ticket shops resell them at a price just a bit below face value. It’s perfectly legal.

JAL shareholders seem to have a lot of these coupons since JAL hasn’t had too many profitable years since it went private in the 1980s, and so they have always sold these coupons to ticket shops. But until the media started paying attention to the possibility that the company would go bankrupt the average person didn’t know about them. According to one news show I saw, due to increased demand the average price of a single coupon has risen from about 2,500 yen to 3,300 yen in about a week’s time. Ticket shops tend to pay a little more than 1,000 yen to buy them now. It used to be about 2,000 yen, but it dropped when JAL’s share prices did.

If a lot of people suddenly use these coupons – and JAL will have to honor them – then it will be bad news for the airline, since they need all the money they can get. They can hardly afford to give 50 percent discounts to hordes of travelers.

Got JAL miles?

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Spend ‘em while you can.

If new transport minister Seiji Maehara has anything to say about it, Japan Airlines will not go bankrupt, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the country’s flaship carrier is out of the woods or won’t someday merge with some other airline. Because of all the panicky speculation, no one had brought up the touchy subject of all those frequent flyer miles that JAL customers have socked away.

Is it possible they could be rendered useless? There are precedents. When it was liquidated in 2002 Australia’s Ansett Airlines suspended its frequent flyer program and since no other airline came in to pick them up, all points that were accumulated completely lost their value.

In a recent article, Shukan Post offered some advice for JAL Mileage Bank members. For one thing, if you’re planning an overseas trip any time in the near or even distant future, book it now and use your miles, since you’re more likely to get the best value for them. You’re allowed to book up to 330 days in advance for an international flight, and though you can change the date up to a day before you leave, you can’t change the route.

Continue reading about JAL miles →

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