The world’s sixth-largest airline group was created on Oct. 2 when Japan Airlines and Japan Air System merged into a single holding company, Japan Airlines System.

For the time being, both JAL and JAS will remain as subsidiaries of the larger holding group and will maintain all current flight services. Beginning in 2004, however, the operations of both companies will be completely merged.

“To meet the severe competition on the domestic front, the new JAL Group will provide a wider selection of fares and routes for the benefit of our customers. Furthermore, to survive and prosper amid the fierce competition with rival airlines on the international front, we will expand our network of routes in Asia, China in particular, and better balance our routes in Europe, the Americas and Oceania,” said President and CEO Isao Kaneko.

Of immediate interest to frequent flyers, the company is offering a 10,000-mile award for specific JAL/JAS domestic flights.

Japan’s second-largest airline, the source of the “severe competition on the domestic front,” is All Nippon Airways. Realizing that the JAL/JAS merger would result in increased domestic competition, ANA has recently focused on increasing its international commerce, doubling its daily flights to China and allying with China Southern and Shanghai Airlines. In an interview with Reuters, ANA president Yoji Ohashi also mentioned that “We are in talks with Air China concerning a number of issues.”

At present, ANA partners include Star Alliance members, ANK, Air Japan, Malaysia Airlines, Emirates Airlines and Asiana Airlines.