The airline was established on March 1, 1951, with domestic flights premiered on October 25, 1951 by Martin 2-0-2 aircraft leased from Northwest Airlines. Meanwhile, the inaugural international flight routes with the Tokyo-San Francisco began on February 2, 1954 by Douglas DC-6 aircraft. Japan Airlines entered the jet era in 1966 with Douglas DC-8 aircraft. Then, JAL decided to modernize its fleet with jet aircraft. JAL also added international destinations like Hong Kong, New York, Paris, London, and Pusan. In the 1970s, the airline also purchased Boeing 747, Boeing 727 and McDonnell-Douglas DC-10.
When deregulation of the Japanese government launched flights in the late 1970s, In 1987, JAL was privatized and the two rival JAL, All Nippon Airways and Japan Air System, allowed to freely compete with JAL.
In the 1990s, the airline ordered a Boeing 777 as part of its fleet renewal. In 2001, JAL and Japan Air System (JAS) agreed to a merger. The merger was completed in 2004, maintaining the brand Japan Airlines.
On April 1, 2007. JAL officially joined the oneworld alliance. In 2009, JAL posted a big loss, so the Japanese government to disburse loans worth 100 billion to bail Yem, as well as forming a committee JAL solving financial problems.
Planned restructuring program by selling a majority stake to the American Airlines (oneworld) or Delta Air Lines. However, because the Delta is a member of SkyTeam, JAL also stop the sale of shares in Delta talks. This is because selling shares to Delta JAL JAL will create automatically a member of SkyTeam, which means leaving the Oneworld.
JAL also argued that moving the alliance would confuse passengers and will not get protection from the U.S. antitrust agencies (the problem of open air space agreements between Japan – United States) American also announced it would buy a majority stake JAL. Air France-KLM, British Airways, Qantas and JAL are also interested in buying.
However, JAL decided to choose American as a partner of cooperation, and also strengthen cooperation with other members of Oneworld.Tanggal January 1 last, it was announced that JAL will hold a joint operation (joint-venture) with American Airlines.
Dated January 19, 2010. JAL Japan finally entered bankruptcy protection (Corporate Rehabilitation Law; equivalent to Chapter 11 American or British Administration). JAL will reduce the employees about a third of the amount now (about 15,000 than 47,000 employees), reducing as well as update the fleet, as well as reducing the number of international flight routes.