She started as a flight attendant at age 20. Now, she’s just been named Japan Airlines’ first female president.

She started as a flight attendant at age 20. Now, she’s just been named Japan Airlines’ first female president.
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She started as a flight attendant at age 20. Now, she’s just been named Japan Airlines’ first female president.
Japan Airlines’ first-ever female president Mitsuko Tottori worked as cabin crew for 20 years with the company.

  • Japan Airlines named a woman as president for the first time in its history. 
  • Mitsuko Tottori worked as a flight attendant with JAL for 20 years before becoming a manager. 
  • Tottori’s appointment comes after JetBlue announced its first-ever female CEO on January 9.

The new president of Japan Airlines is the first woman to helm the top job at the company, the airline announced in a statement on Wednesday.

Mitsuko Tottori, 59, will take over as president on April 1, nine months after she was promoted to senior managing executive officer, according to JAL’s statement.

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Tottori first joined the company in 1985 and worked as a flight attendant for 20 years, per her company profile. In 2005, Tottori became JAL’s manager for its cabin attendant department and was promoted to senior management in 2013, per the profile.

Tottori will replace Yuji Akasaka, the airline’s president since June 2018, per Akasaka’s company profile.

Tottori’s appointment is a major step forward for women in Japan, a country known for a lack of gender equality in the workplace. In 2023, Japan ranked 125th out of 146 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap report, which tracks each country’s progress in reducing gender parity. In comparison, the US ranked 43rd on the index.

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“There are female employees out there who are struggling with their career steps or going through big life events,” Tottori said in a press conference in Tokyo, per Reuters.

“I hope my appointment as a president can encourage them, or give them the courage to take the next step,” she added.

Two weeks before Tottori’s promotion, a Japan Airlines A350 plane collided with a Japan Coast Guard aircraft at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. Tottori said in the press conference that she aims to prioritize flight safety once she takes over as president, per local newspaper The Mainichi.

“Safety is the foundation of airlines. I hope to tackle the issue of customer safety with renewed resolve,” Tottori said, per The Mainichi.

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Tottori’s appointment comes after JetBlue announced on January 9 that Joanna Geraghty would become its CEO, becoming the first female CEO at a major US airline.

Japan Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

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