Photo/IllutrationJapan Airlines Co. President Yuji Akasaka, left, responds to reporters after the company was given an operations improvement order, at the transport ministry in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district on Dec. 21. (Hideki Kitami)

The transport ministry ordered Japan Airlines Co. to improve its operations specifically related to flaws in its breath-alcohol testing system that came to light after a recent series of alcohol-related scandals.

The order, issued Dec. 21, is the first for JAL since 2005, when a string of safety problems emerged ahead of its collapse in 2010.

In response to the order, JAL President Yuji Akasaka said: "We lost considerable trust from the public. I want to express my deepest apologies."

Akasaka said that flaws with the breath-alcohol test system is a management issue and that the company will consider further measures to take responsibility, including disciplinary measures.

The ministry pointed out that such flaws are a serious violation of Japan's aviation law and could lead to serious accidents.

A JAL co-pilot was arrested in London in October after failing a breath test shortly before a flight to Tokyo, showing nearly 10 times the legal limit.

It was later discovered that the first officer, who has since received a prison sentence, evaded an in-house breath-alcohol test before starting his duties, and that the two chief pilots failed to visually confirm the checks.

In addition, although their flight required three pilots, only the two chief pilots flew the airplane, with the first officer scheduled for duty, which is against the airline's regulations.

Based on a ministry inspection of JAL, it was also discovered that among alcohol tests conducted from August 2017, data records for 4,175 cases did not exist. There were also at least 197 cases in which tests were not conducted appropriately.

In 110 of those cases, a chief pilot in his 50s deliberately avoided taking the test.

The ministry also issued warnings on Dec. 21 to All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA) and ANA Wings Co., a subsidiary of ANA, and Skymark Airlines Co., as well as Japan Air Commuter Co., an affiliate of JAL, saying that their safety management systems are insufficient.

On Dec. 20, JAL announced that a female flight attendant in her 40s on duty for a 7:55 p.m. flight from Narita to Honolulu on Dec. 17 showed an alcohol level beyond the airline's in-house limit. No alcohol was detected in a breath-alcohol test conducted two hours before she started her duties, and the flight attendant denied drinking any alcohol.