Delta Air Lines told the U.S. Department of Transportation it wants to fly a daytime, nonstop flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport, the company said Thursday.
But Delta will have to beat out its rivals to do so.
The Atlanta-based carrier filed an application with the DOT for three of the five daytime landing slots that will be doled out among all U.S.-based international airlines. Delta also asked for permission to fly nonstop service from Los Angeles and Atlanta to Haneda.
An agreement reached in February between the U.S. and Japan allows a small increase in service at Haneda, which is more sought-after than Tokyo’s Narita International Airport due to its proximity to central Tokyo.
United Airlines and American Airlines also petitioned for two Haneda routes each. American wants nonstop, daytime route service to Haneda from Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles. United hopes for service from San Francisco and Newark.
Hawaiian Airlines wants to move its current nighttime service from Honolulu to a daytime slot and asked for new daytime service from Kona, Hawaii.
Delta currently operates a Tokyo hub at Narita, a 46-mile drive to downtown Tokyo, and flies there daily from Minneapolis-St. Paul and six other U.S. cities. Delta executives pleaded with the U.S. government in February not to move forward with the expansion at Haneda, saying it would unfairly damage its competitive footing at Narita.
Delta executives in January also told the public commission that operates MSP that the airport’s direct flight to Narita was in jeopardy if Haneda was expanded. Gov. Mark Dayton and members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation asked the DOT not to allow Haneda to create more competition for Narita and Delta’s hub there.
But the U.S. and Japanese governments decided to proceed with the new Haneda routes and the DOT ordered U.S. carriers in March to bid on the slots.
According to a news release, Delta said it filed for the Haneda routes it believes “are in the best interest of our customers and will provide both the greatest direct and connecting opportunities from the U.S. to Haneda.”
The DOT also has one nighttime landing slot at Haneda to give to a U.S. carrier. Delta did not bid for it.
It’s unclear how Delta will proceed if it gets only one or two of the Haneda slots and whether it will be able to profitably maintain its Narita hub. The airline in recent years started flying more direct flights to other Asian destinations, such as Seoul, without going through the Narita hub.
“We have continued to de-emphasize Narita over the last several years, and we will continue on that process,” Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s chief revenue officer, told investors and analysts last week. “Haneda probably accelerates that process by a little bit as we look to the fall schedule period.”
Kristen Leigh Painter • 612-673-4767