Japan: US Airline Gets to Keep Tokyo Haneda – Seattle Slot

Airlines and Aviation

Delta Air Lines gets to keep its 2 slots at Tokyo Haneda International Airport – but with some strings attached. If the airline cuts service, one of the slots will be re-assigned to American Airlines.

The United States Department of Transportaton (DOT) has deciided to allow Delta Air Lines to continue its service linking Seattle/Tacoma International Airport (SEA) with Tokyo Haneda International Airport (HND) – even though the airline cut flights during the off season.

“After an extensive review, the DOT concluded that Delta’s Seattle-Haneda service provides the best public use of the available slot pair between the U.S. and Haneda Airport,” the airline says in a press release.

“Earlier this month, Delta resumed its nonstop service between Seattle and Haneda after a temporary seasonal suspension. Delta will operate year-round, nonstop flights between Seattle and Haneda as we continue to grow Delta’s international gateway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.”

Under an aviation agreement between the U.S. and Japanese governments, U.S. airlines have just 4 landing slots at Tokyo International Airport, a.k.a. Haneda.

Delta Airlines was awarded 2 of the slots: one linking the airport with Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in California; the other, with Seattle/Tacoma International Airport in Washington.

United Airlines was awarded a slot from its hub at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), also in California. Hawaiian Airlines was awarded a slot from Honolulu International Airport (HON) in Hawaii.

Domestic Travelers

One of the world’s busiest airports, Haneda serves mostly domestic travelers, with most international flights operating out of Narita (NRT).

Many travelers prefer flying out of Haneda because it is considerably closer to downtown Tokyo than Narita, which is located in the distant suburbs.

Delta Air Lines has been pursuing an aggressive policy of expansion at Seattle since its merger with Northwest Airlines in 2008.

When the Atlanta based airline suspended flights on the Seattle – Haneda route last winter, Hawaiian Airlines and American Airlines – the world’s largest airline – both saught rights to take over Delta’s slot.

Hawaiian Airlines wanted to add a flight linking Haneda with Kona, a popular travel destination for Japanese tourists. American Airlines wanted to use the slot to launch service linking Haneda with Los Angeles International Airport, which is already served by Delta Air Lines.

Delta Air Lines says it will resume daily flights between Haneda and Seattle on 29 March 2015. Should Delta fail to operate flights on that route ‘2 out of any 7 days’, DOT will re-assign the slot to American Airlines.

Comment and Analysis

Fair is fair. With only 4 slots available, it seems that they should go to 4 different air carriers. Hawaiian, a relatively small airline, makes sense because of geography and the popularity of Hawaii as a travel destination for Japanese tourists.

It also allows the airline to continue to develop a mid-Pacific hub at Honolulu.

The other 3 slots, meanwhile, should go to the 3 largest U.S. airlines: American, Delta, and United. But they should also go to 3 different markets. Since Delta was awarded a slot linking Haneda with Los Angeles, awarding a 2nd slot to another airline flying the same route doesn’t make sense.

American Airlines also maintains major hubs at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Illinois and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) in Texas. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the airline to apply for a slot to serve one of those markets instead of LAX?



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