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The Fight for Haneda: How American Carriers Want to Serve Tokyo

Just two weeks ago, the United States Transportation Department ruled that if Delta Air Lines wants to keep its route service from Seattle to Tokyo-Haneda (HND), it would need to operate the flight every single day, 365 days a year.

The Transportation Department stated that Delta exercised “virtual abandonment of the route…even if only for a traffic season” and “severely undercut the public-interest basis.”

However, Delta will be able to continue providing service assuming it follows the new guidelines. While this may seem like a blessing between many city pairs, the reality is that Delta doesn’t currently want to serve Tokyo’s second largest airport everyday.

Due to current restrictions by the Japanese Ministry of Transport, all international flights arriving and departing from Haneda must operate between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., leaving very few attractive slot options for international carriers. In addition, agreements between the United States and Japan have allowed for only four round trip flights daily between any location in the United States and Haneda Airport, all of which are currently in use.

One might suggest that carriers could simply continue flying into Tokyo Narita (NRT), Tokyo’s larger airport, but the airport is nearly double the distance from downtown Tokyo and a burden for business travelers looking to quickly make it into the city. Delta, who currently operates one other route to Haneda from its hub in Los Angeles, is hoping that restrictions will soon to be lifted in regard to flight times, particularly with the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics taking place in Tokyo. This could mean a strong increase in flyers as Delta would be the only United States carrier offering direct flights to Haneda.

In the mean time, both American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines are lining up to take Delta’s slot if Delta does indeed violate the Transportation Department’s ruling. American currently operates three routes to Tokyo Narita from Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago (ORD) and Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW), and would significantly benefit if they could move some of these routes to Haneda.


  • Joe joined AirlineGeeks in 2014, and in his current role as Editor-in-Chief manages a growing team of writers both in North America and Europe. He enjoys spending the bulk of his time researching, learning and analyzing the latest trends in the airline industry, all while mentoring new members of the AirlineGeeks team who seek to do the same. Areas of research include revenue management, codeshare and alliance partnerships and airline financial results.

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