I can’t recall too many overseas destinations that have lead to as much news/controversy as Tokyo Haneda airport and the fight over the coveted few landing slots the US airlines have had access to. As the DOT makes their decision on who should get to fly (continue to fly) to Haneda, here’s a brief look back:
It was just about 2 years ago that American Airlines made an attempt to nab Delta’s Seattle-Haneda slot to spin up LAX service of their own.
After a year of back-and-forth, Delta finally gave up the goat (and their Haneda slot). American “won” the right to operate service to Haneda out of LAX.
Delta wasn’t really done fighting, though it’s unclear what their end goal was when they argued American should have to give up their right to operate a Haneda route. I guess mostly just to stick a thumb in American’s eye.
Finally, American worked out all the kinks and got service worked out, kicking it off earlier this year. The DOT also ultimately ruled that Hawaiian, not Delta, would be the airline to step in if American couldn’t make a go of Haneda service.
First, they allowed all 4 carriers currently operating Haneda service at night the opportunity to continue. That’s absolutely the right decision, given that those airlines have invested money (marketing, operating losses) to establish those routes amidst incredibly bad flight schedules. Now, they get the benefit of operating more appealing times. For clarity, the existing flights are:
- American Airlines (LAX)
- Delta (LAX)
- Hawaiian (HNL)
- United (SFO)
Hawaiian was the only one who applied for a night-time slot and they were unsurprisingly awarded it.
That left just one more slot, which ultimately went to Delta to operate out of Minneapolis. As Seth notes, other applications such as United’s for Newark and American’s for DFW, were rejected in favor of the Minneapolis award.
While I’ve mostly taken American’s side in the flight with Delta over Haneda slots, I see the decision between DFW and MSP essentially a coin-flip, both better choices than Newark. A connection from the middle of the country makes a certain amount of sense, and both DFW and MSP represent sizable hubs from which to do so (Chicago being the other one that comes to mind, though I don’t believe any airline applied to operate out of ORD).
I have elite status with American, so I guess I’d slightly prefer to see them get the route, but the general public is likely well served from either DFW or MSP.
Lastly, I got a good chuckle out of the DOT calling out the fact that they’re not 100% sure Delta will operate the MSP flight as intended, even though they’re willing to give the benefit of the doubt to get started:
In light of Delta’s past conduct, should our tentative decision in favor of Delta at Minneapolis be finalized, we have tentatively decided to condition the award of that authority: in the event that Delta were to significantly deviate from its Minneapolis proposal in this proceeding, Delta’s authority would automatically terminate and a backup carrier’s authority would automatically activate (we discuss our tentative selection of a backup carrier below).
I can’t imagine too many government statements starting with “In light of XXX’s past conduct” that are overly positive. That being said, money is money, and Delta is beholden to their shareholders. If they believe they can push the envelope with the DOT on how they operate the route, they can (and should).
All’s Well That Ends Well?
The difference between Narita and Haneda (Tokyo’s two primary airports) isn’t overly critical to arriving tourists. A slightly longer ride to downtown didn’t hurt me all that much when I was there a few years ago.
For business travelers, connecting traffic and folks who fly between the US and Tokyo more frequently, Haneda has always been something of a holy grail. Whether it stands to make a big difference in the airlines’ ability to fill these seats remain to be seen.
For the moment, though, the fighting seems to be over. That’s a shame. I still had some popcorn.
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