Mitsuko Tottori, the first female president of JAL Airlines, who was born as a flight attendant, how can she jointly lead Japan Airlines out of the trough of the epidemic and open up new paths?

Japan Airlines (JAL) announced on January 17 that it will welcome the first female president in JAL's history, 59-year-old managing director Mitsuko Tottori, who will be promoted to the position on April 1.

This is a two-firsting for JAL: Tottori is not only the first president of JAL to be a flight attendant (CA is also known as a "cabin attendant" CA) since JAL was founded, but also the first female president of JAL.

The Nikkei newspaper quoted an airline official as saying that a flight attendant-turned-president is "extremely rare in the world's airlines. 」

Breaking the glass and academic ceilings: flight attendant background, junior college graduate

Within the company, Mitsuko Tottori is often evaluated as a "big sister" type with "strong leadership", "highly admired by juniors", and a strong and cheerful style.

JAL officials said that Ms. Tottori may seem mild-mannered, but her way of thinking and her heart are very firm and strong. 」

In addition, during the coronavirus pandemic, according to reports such as Nikkei Asia, Tottori, as the senior vice president in charge of flight attendants, boldly pushed forward new measures to help second the company's cabin crew to local municipalities and other companies in Japan during the pandemic, and at the same time, to maintain the morale and motivation of employees.

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The current president, Akasaka, describes Tottori as "a leader of the new generation who puts the customer's perspective first and can maximize the capabilities of his members."

Internally, she is described as "flexible and listens to others' opinions." In the customer service department, we are also flexible in responding to various values, and we have been highly praised by the nomination committee, including independent directors.

Photo: Dazhi Images/Associated Press (AP)

As a result of Tottori's long-term achievements, he was able to overcome various ceilings, including academic qualifications, and became the first president of JAL to graduate from a junior college. He is also the first JAL president since 2002 to come from JAS "Japan Airlines" (formerly East Asia Domestic Airlines).

The story of Tottori teaches us that you should never worry about your atypical background, and that in an organization that is moving towards diversity and inclusion, there will always be a stage for you to show your talents!

We will focus on safety and customer experience, and build a team where everyone can play their role

At a press conference on the 17th, Tottori introduced himself as follows: "[I] have always responded to the changing values of the times and worked to get people to choose JAL. Security and services, these two jobs are my career. Next, "I want to build a team that puts the customer first, is advanced and happy, wants to work from the bottom of my heart, and makes the most of each employee's abilities."

When Tottori first joined the airline, JAL suffered the second worst air crash in aviation history, the massive Misuke Takayama Air Disaster, which killed 520 people. Tottori said that in the year of the Misuyama Mt. crash, she had just started to perform flight attendant duties as a CA, and the impact she received at that time is still engraved in her heart, and she still has a strong sense of responsibility to pass on the importance of safe navigation to the next generation.

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On January 2, 2024, a JAL passenger plane collided with a Japan Coast Guard aircraft at Haneda Airport, causing the plane to catch fire. Tottori said at the time, "[The nine crew members] have a very strong sense of mission, and they are very scared of themselves, but all nine of them have a sense of mission to get all the passengers out, and of course the beloved passengers are very helpful, which is also very important, and I am really proud of them." 」

"The backbone of the airline is safe flights, and I will work hard with even greater determination with unwavering belief in this. Tottori said.

Photo: Dazhi Images/Associated Press (AP)

JAL said that Tottori has a "high level of knowledge and on-the-ground experience" in safe transportation and service, and that she will continue the current president's policy of "customer- and employee-centered team management" and stand at the forefront of the Group's 36,000 employees.

"We want to build a team that puts customers first, is advanced and happy, wants to work from the bottom of our hearts, and makes the most of each employee's abilities," Tottori said at the press conference.

JAL's big move also follows the overall goal of the Japanese government

In May 2023, the Japanese government decided to set a target for the "Women's Version of the Bone Tai Tsu Policy 2023" to encourage companies listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange to appoint at least one female director by 2025 and to reach 30% or more female directors by 2030.

Gender Encyclopedia

《女版骨太のPolicy 2023》


In May 2023, Japan set the goal of women's empowerment and gender equality as a priority, and formulated the "Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality Priority Policy Draft" (women's version of the basic policy). It can be simply translated as the Draft Basic Policy for Women 2023. Companies listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange are encouraged to "set numerical targets related to the proportion of female directors in high-quality listed companies" including:

  • (1) appoint at least one female director by 2025,
  • (2) By 2030, the proportion of female directors will be 30% or more
  • (3) By 2033, increase the proportion of female entrepreneurs in high-quality J-startup companies to 20% within 10 years.
  • (4) Propose a framework and propose an action plan to achieve the goals.
Reference: Nikkei

JAL has set itself an internal goal of having 30% of all managers be women by the end of March 2026.  As of the end of March 2023, this figure is 22.8%, and there is still room for effort, but it is not out of reach.

At the press conference, Tottori also said that there are many female workers in this world who are struggling to advance their careers or have experienced major events in their lives. I hope that the fact that I am the president will encourage them and give them the courage to move on to the next stage!"

When all the focus and pressure was on him, and some people expected the first female president to bring about the changes that only women can bring, Tottori confidently and humbly said, "I will continue to be myself."

Tottori Mitsuko Introduction:

In 1985, she graduated from Living Water Women's Junior College in Japan with a degree in English Literature and joined East Asia Domestic Airlines (which has now merged with JAL to become Japan Airlines). In 2019, he was appointed General Manager of the Cabin Safety Promotion Department, in 2020 he was appointed Executive Director and General Manager of the Cabin Division, in April 2023 he was appointed Executive Executive Director, and since June of the same year, he has been appointed Representative Director, Senior Executive Director, and Group Chief Customer Officer (Chief Customer Officer). Born in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan.