[TOKYO] Japan Airlines wants to create a low-cost carrier network with three of its discount carriers to tap leisure travel that, unlike business travel, could rebound as the coronavirus wanes, the company president said on Wednesday.
"Aviation won't return to what it was before and business travel demand could even shrink further. One of our targets is tourism," Yuji Akasaka told a media briefing.
Japan Airlines' three low-cost regional carriers include Jetstar, which it operates with Qantas Airlines, Spring Airlines Japan, a joint venture with China's Spring Airlines, and its wholly owned Zipair unit.
Mr Akasaka did not say whether Japan would seek to formally merge their operations through acquisitions.
Japan Airlines, like other carriers, has been hammered by a collapse in international air travel to about a tenth of what it was before the coronavirus outbreak, but has seen domestic flight demand rebound helped by a government campaign to promote tourism.
"The impact of that campaign has been significant and in late September going into October we are seeing traveller numbers increase to about 50 per cent of what they were a year ago," Mr Akasaka said.
To survive the downturn in demand, which Japan Airlines expects to last until at least 2024 on international routes, Mr Akasaka said the carrier would look to boost revenue from non-airline businesses such as drone parcel deliveries.
Japan Airlines last month announced a tie-up with Matternet, to launch the US company's urban drone logistics business in Japan. This year, it also invested in a German startup, Volocopter, that is developing air taxis.