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Japan's top airline hit by global downturn

JAPAN Airlines racked up a 38.5-billion-yen (US$423 million) loss for the fiscal third quarter as business travel and cargo traffic plummeted, battered by a global downturn.

The nation's top airline, also known as JAL Group, yesterday forecast a 34-billion-yen loss for the fiscal year through March, a reversal from its November projection of a 13-billion-yen profit.

The carrier made a 16.9- billion-yen profit in the previous fiscal year.

Sales for October-December sank 13 percent from a year earlier to 485.7 billion yen.

Travel for domestic passengers was flat for the period, but declined for international passengers as well as international cargo, the company announced.

Japan Airlines said it will continue with turnaround efforts, such as job cuts, more fuel-efficient aircraft and a focus on business travelers. But it acknowledged hard times were likely to continue.

"With business confidence falling and demand expected to drop far more than originally expected, the pressure to increase profitability, focus more on cost reduction and increase productivity levels will intensify," it said in a statement.

Japan Airlines said the surge in fuel prices had hurt results, especially in the first half.

Even with the appreciation of the yen, fuel costs rose by 107.4 billion yen to 414.5 billion yen for the first nine months of the fiscal year, compared to the same period the previous year.


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