Shot Down By Bureaucrats

Rocked by the rising yen and an economic downturn, Japan Airlines Co. thought it had finally found a way to slash costs earlier this summer. JAL was elated after reformist politicians said they were willing to end the government's habitual meddling in the airline business. So JAL planned to offer early retirement to some flight attendants, whose annual earnings average a hefty $80,000, and replace them with low-wage part-timers. Then, the bureaucrats weighed in. Top officials in the Transport and Labor Ministries not only dumped on the plan but threatened retaliation. Within days, the airline backed down. "We had no choice," says one bitter JAL official.

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