Flying Low

TOKYO, May 10, 2006 (AFP) – Japan Airlines Corp, Asia’s largest carrier, said Wednesday high fuel costs and a series of safety lapses pushed it deep into loss in the year to March but forecast a return to profit this year.

JAL made a net loss of 47.2 billion yen (424.5 million dollars) for the financial year, roughly in line with its own forecasts, compared with a profit of 30.1 billion yen in the previous financial year.

The airline also swang into the red at the operating level with a loss of 26.83 billion yen against a profit of 56.15 billion yen a year earlier.

Revenues edged up 3.3 percent to 2.20 trillion yen. For the current financial year JAL forecast a net profit of 3.0 billion yen.

“High fuel costs for international routes and the impact of safety problems are the main reasons for the losses,” JAL’s chief executive designate, Haruka Nishimatsu, told a press conference.

JAL said its fuel bill rose by 88.2 billion yen from the previous year.

For the current year JAL has hedged about 75 percent of its fuel needs so the impact of any further rises in kerosene prices should be limited, Nishimatsu said.

JAL has had a troubled record since its 1987 privatization and a complex merg