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American Seeks Tokyo Haneda Slots to Start JFK Service
American joins United in requesting Haneda slots vacated by Delta.
In an application filed with the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), American Airlines has requested the seven weekly slot pairs that will soon be vacated by Delta at Tokyo Haneda Airport. American is requesting the slots to restart service between Haneda and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).
American’s Haneda Slot Request
American is proposing to start a daily service between New York and Tokyo Haneda. In its application to the DOT for the slots, the Fort Worth-based carrier stated that it “has firm plans to commence daily year-round nonstop roundtrip service between New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Haneda with these seven weekly slot pairs using widebody aircraft.”
The proposed service would connect two major global cities and would add to the four existing daily flights between the two airports. Both Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways currently fly two daily flights between Haneda and JFK using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. Japan Airlines and American are Oneworld alliance partners and American currently codeshares on Japan Airlines’ flights between JFK and Haneda.
American briefly operated a flight between JFK and Tokyo Haneda between February 2011 and December 2013, but ended the service, citing unprofitability due to late arrival and early departure slot times. The airline also previously flew from JFK to Tokyo’s other major airport – Narita International Airport – until it ended that route in favor of its Haneda service in 2012.
The Battle for Haneda Slots
After the opening of Narita Airport in 1978, Haneda became primarily used for domestic flights. In 2010, the airport opened a new international terminal and expanded its international offerings. The roster of international flights at Haneda has continued to grow, as it is the preferred airport for many travelers and airlines due to its close proximity to central Tokyo.
However, capacity at Haneda is limited and the demand for slots is high. Following the expansion of the U.S.–Japan Air Transport Agreement in 2019, the DOT was in a position to grant an additional 12 weekly slot pairs between Haneda and the United States, bringing the total number of U.S. slots to 17. After a public interest review, the DOT awarded these slots to four airlines: American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines.
Delta received the greatest number of slots at five. The slots were granted to each airline to serve specific U.S. airports and one of Delta’s awarded pairs was for a route between Portland International Airport and Haneda. While the airlines were to lose a slot should they not use it, the DOT put a waiver on this condition during the COVID-19 pandemic. This waiver is coming to an end this month and Delta still has not started its Portland–Haneda route. For months, Delta asked the DOT to allow it to shift the slot to another U.S. airport, citing changing market conditions.
The DOT was unconvinced by Delta’s arguments, stating that the slot awarding process should be restarted instead: “The department believes, consistent with our past practice, that should any of the carriers selected for Haneda service wish to change their U.S. gateway, the public interest would be best served by our consideration of such a request on the basis of a fresh and complete evidentiary record, and in light of the circumstances presented at that time.”
In September, Delta indicated that it would not be starting service between Portland and Haneda, thereby freeing up the slot pair that American is now requesting. United has also applied for these slots to operate flights from Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Haneda. United has separately asked for some of Hawaiian’s unused frequencies to start a Guam–Haneda service.
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