UPDATE 1-Japan govt tells JAL it is sticking to Haneda slot handout

Tue Nov 5, 2013 4:39am EST

* Regulators say airline alliances counted little in decision

* JAL says it regrets regulators response, will consider next move

TOKYO Nov 5 (Reuters) - Japan's government said on Tuesday it was sticking to a handout of new landing rights at Tokyo's Haneda airport that Japan Airlines complained was unfair because it gave local rival ANA Holdings twice as many of the slots.

Japan's aviation regulators responded to a request from JAL for a review of the allocation submitted a month ago, sticking to its decision to give JAL five new slots compared with 11 for ANA.

"It's water under the bridge," Shigenori Hiraoka, director of aviation industries at Japan's Civil Aviation Bureau, told Reuters. The bureau has never revised slot allocations, he said.

JAL's president Yoshiharu Ueki told Reuters last month that his company reserved the right to sue the government for favouring ANA in allocating landing rights at Haneda, the world's fourth busiest airport.

"We regret the Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transport did not correct the allocation," said JAL spokesman Jian Yang. "We are considering the next step."

Each slot can be worth around $20 million a year each in operating profit. ANA will be allowed it to ply new routes in Asia from Haneda, while JAL has to stick to existing destinations.

Regulators reiterated on Tuesday that it did not want to let JAL open up new routes because a state-led $3.5 billion bailout of the carrier in 2010 that resulted in most of its debt being waived gave it a competitive edge over ANA.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government, which was in opposition at the time of JAL's rescue, was sympathetic to ANA's call for using the slots to blunt JAL.

ANA is a member of Star Alliance, and the new landing rights will boost the group's share of daytime international flights at Haneda to 52 percent from 47 percent, leaving Oneworld, which includes JAL, British Airways American Airlines and other carriers, with just under a quarter.

In its reply to JAL, the aviation bureau said it had not given much weight to alliances because they may change over time.

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