If All Nippon Airways (ANA) has a bit of a chip on its shoulder, you can understand why. It was once Japan’s most profitable airline, routinely beating its larger, bloated rival Japan Airlines (JAL). After the Japanese government rescued JAL in 2010, however, JAL suddenly became one of the world’s highest-margin carriers. Its drastic downsizing would hand ANA the title of Japan’s largest airline. But so what? JAL more importantly had become — and has remained ever since — Japan’s most profitable airline.
ANA is still living with that uncomfortable reality. Its chief rival, on death’s doorstep a decade ago, was handed some $4b in taxpayer money, on top of the $6b of debt its lenders agreed to annul. Thus began one of the great turnaround stories in airline history.
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