100 Next-Era Leaders in Asia 2016-2017 -The region's best brightest, most promising-

Japan Airlines Co., Ltd.

President Yoshiharu Ueki

1952
Birthplace
Kyoto Prefecture
Message to young people
I have only one thing I want to tell you: You decide your own life. And, once you make a decision on something, you will be responsible for it. Gain a lot of experience in many things and make your mistakes while you are young. Make a lot of mistakes and learn the hard lessons; after that, you will be able to make truly good decisions with confidence.

My mother supported me in anything I wanted to do, but she also told me I should take responsibility for what I said I wanted to do. It was this discipline that I learned when I was still an elementary school student that I should be responsible for making the choices in my life. Looking back on those times, it was my biggest treasure.

There is one thing I strongly remember, and it was during the summer vacation of my second year in the high school. I told her I wanted to go overseas by myself and she made the travel arrangements for me right away. She made me promise only one thing. She told me she wanted to be sure I was alive, so she made me promise to write her a letter to let her know where I was staying every time I moved. On my journey, I had a chance to come into direct contact with people living overseas. One day I told her I wanted to be a pilot and she had me take a day off from school the next week to take me to a civil aviation college in Miyazaki Prefecture. I studied really hard after that, but failed to pass the physical examination for the college. I gave up on my dream to be a pilot, and instead enrolled in Keio University. In my first summer vacation at the university, I went home to find an application form for civil aviation college on my desk. My mother asked me, “Are you happy to remain as a loser?” Her words motivated me and I once again threw myself into studying to be a pilot, eventually passing the test for civil aviation college, opening the door for me to fly.

I wanted to be the best pilot in the world ever since I joined the company. A pilot really bets his life on this job. My experience as a pilot still helps me today in carrying out my duties as a company president thanks to my habit of fast decision-making. “Time is money” is not the motto for flying. For flying, “Time is life” is more appropriate. Once an airplane is up in the air, there are only two options — to land, or crash. It is the captain’s responsibility to get the airplane on the ground safely, and the captain has no time to waste — not even a second — as an airplane carries a limited amount of fuel, and is limited in how far it can travel because of it. When a captain makes a decision on something, he has to consider many factors to decide the best way to go. A captain must have the ability to foresee things, make judgments for a safe flight with minimum risk, and make bold, but not reckless, decisions quickly. I was trained to nurture those skills during my pilot days.

When I was asked, informally, to be a board member during the company rehabilitation process after its collapse in 2010, I thought: “I only know how to fly airplanes. To be honest, I’m afraid to be in management, jettisoning my dream, and possibly regretting the decision.” But, at the same time, I thought, “I cannot afford to stay in this company as a pilot if I turn down the offer.” I had two choices: To take the offer, or leave the company. I made my decision, with the determination that I would not regret leaving behind the control stick, if I could devote myself fully to rebuilding the company on behalf of my tens of thousands of colleagues, turning it around to regain solid financial footing.

Fiscal 2016 is the final year of our mid-term business plan that started in fiscal 2012. I want to complete the plan without mistakes to build a path to further growth. Additionally, I want to achieve our corporate target of “seeking both material happiness and spiritual happiness for all of our workers.” That is the only goal I am aiming at.

Company Profile

Name
Japan Airlines Co., Ltd.
Headquarters
Tokyo
1951
employees
31,534 (as of March, 2015)
business
Passenger, cargo airline
url
http://www.jal.com/