JAL shines supportive light on transport rival

The Yomiuri Shimbun
JAL’s in-flight magazine “Skyward” features a two-page spread on railway extension work being carried out on the Hokkaido Shinkansen line.

The May issue of Japan Airlines Co.’s domestic in-flight magazine carries an unusual story about a major rival in the transport industry — Shinkansen bullet trains.

The special feature article, which centers on railway extension work being carried out on the Hokkaido Shinkansen line, was the brainchild of a JAL employee working on loan with Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency (JRTT), an independent administrative entity based in Yokohama.

Koji Tateishi, 62, came up with the idea of boosting Hokkaido tourism across industry barriers while helping promote the extension work amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The spread in Skyward magazine showcases the under-construction extension to the Hokkaido Shinkansen line between Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and Sapporo, and includes stories on how travel will be more convenient and access to Niseko will be much improved. The new line is scheduled to open in fiscal 2030.

JRTT was suffering from a labor shortage when it approached JAL asking for help with staffing. JAL agreed to loan out personnel, saying the move would help curb the airline’s labor costs and vitalize local communities.

Tateishi works in public relations and has been liaising with local governments in connection with the railway extension since October. Tateishi, who had worked in Hokkaido for a long time, said he proposed the project to JAL because he wanted to take advantage of the opportunity while working for a rival.

“Every industry is experiencing similar difficulties during the pandemic,” he said. “I hope the two sectors [I’m involved in] will be able to get through this plight together.”

JAL distributes Skyward to passengers free of charge and it is read by about 2.81 million people each month.