JAL expected to file for bankruptcy protection on 19 February

Japan Airlines is expected to file for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, a move which will finally end months of speculation about its fate. It will also launch a massive overhaul to cut fat and inefficiencies that have plagued the biggest Asian airline.

The carrier with a  yen 1.5-trillion  debt as of November will go down in Japanese corporate history as one of its biggest failures.

However, the airlines' access to Asian destinations remains a prized asset for foreign airlines such as Delta Air Lines, keen on luring the carrier from its alliance with American Airlines.

A comprehensive restructuring exercise is expected to be taken up immediately by a government-backed corporate turnaround body following the bankruptcy filing, according to media reports. The government will also offer assurances to support  rehabilitation of the carrier and its ongoing operations according to the Nikkei financial daily.

Investors braced today, for a seemingly inevitable removal of the airline's shares from the stock exchange. The shares which were down more than 90 per cent of the stock's value fell another 29 per cent today to yen 5. The company is now essentially worthless with a market capitalisation of about yen 13.7 billion – the price of one Boeing 787 jet, according to analysts.

The once-proud flagship carrier, JAL now reduced to dire straits was founded in 1951 and was initially owned by the state. The carrier expanded quickly in the decades after its founding with the expansion of the Japanese economy and was privatised in 1987.