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United Eyeing Hawaiian’s Returned Haneda Slot

Hawaiian will end its nighttime service at Haneda in April while United plans to start its own from May.

A United 777-300ER touching down at Paine Field after a test flight. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Zera)

Hawaiian Airlines has given up slots for flights to Tokyo’s Haneda airport from Honolulu and Kona effective April 2, blaming “current market conditions.”

The island airline only restarted service between Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport on Oct. 29, 2023. The airline’s March schedule showed thrice-weekly flights between the cities. In addition to the three flights departing Kona, the returned slot is also used for four weekly flights between Tokyo and Honolulu.

“Hawaiian did not take this decision lightly,” the company filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on January 26. “Having invested significant time and resources into building its Haneda operation, Hawaiian resumed the night-time service in October 2023 and has incrementally increased service throughout the current winter scheduling season.”

While international travel has seen a strong recovery in 2023, the Japanese overseas travel demand has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. The weak Japanese Yen has made traveling to the tropical island more expensive than it used to be. The strong U.S. domestic demand also drove the cost of visiting Hawaii even higher, barring a significant return of Japanese tourists to the island.

Feud with United

In September 2023, United filed a complaint with the Department of Transportation requesting the department to take back the night-time slot at Haneda allotted for Hawaiian due to underutilization of the asset. 

Hawaiian was not using the slot under COVID-19 exemptions. The incumbent carrier rebutted and announced the service restart, preventing the agency from taking its slot.

The third-largest U.S. airline also fought fiercely for Delta’s returned slot that was used for the Portland flight. However, American was recently awarded said slot as the department deemed United’s intention to switch its current Narita to Houston flight to Haneda not beneficial for the market.

United’s Plan

The Chicago-based airline applied for the Haneda night-time slots shortly after Hawaiian filed its withdrawal on January 28. The company plans to inaugurate daily flights between Guam and Haneda. It currently flies multiple daily flights between the Pacific Island and Tokyo’s primary international airport, Narita International Airport. 

“United reiterates that for the proposed summer schedule, United flight UA849 will depart Guam at (7 p.m.) and arrive at Haneda at (10 p.m.) the same day. On the return, flight UA849 will depart Haneda at (11:55 p.m.) and arrive at Guam at (4:45 a.m.) the next day,” the application said.

The application to DOT renews the previous application that DOT dismissed without prejudice last year. The dismissal was made with the note “that if an opportunity becomes available for any reason, noted will be free to submit its application.”

Fangzhong Guo

Author

  • Fangzhong Guo

    Fangzhong grew up near an OEM airport in northeastern China, where he developed his enthusiasm for aviation. Taking upon his passion, he's now working as an aircraft interior design engineer. Besides working in the aerospace industry, Fangzhong enjoys trying out different types of airplanes and seeing how airplane interiors have evolved. So far, he's flown on over 80 types of aircraft. He also planespots in his spare time. His rarest catches included the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and AN-225.

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