US Airlines Begin The Fight for Tokyo Haneda Slots

Now that Japan Air Lines has decided to stick with American, it looks like this whole US-Japan open skies deal will go through. And when that happens, the US will have four slot pairs to dole out to US carriers who want to fly between the US and Haneda, Tokyo’s close-in airport. This hasn’t been allowed since before Narita opened, and as you might imagine, airlines are falling all over each other to get in there.

What’s so great about Haneda? Take a look at this map.

Tokyo and Its Airports

It’s 24km by car south of Central Tokyo while Narita is 74km northeast of town. But the biggest reason airlines want to fly here? Limited competition, of course. With only four slot pairs to a close-in airport for one of the largest cities in the world, who wouldn’t want to fly there? And that has made for some pretty goofy applications, even with the annoying timing restrictions that are in place to protect Japanese carriers.

Here’s what we’ve seen so far:

  • United wants to fly daily from San Francisco
  • American wants to fly daily from JFK and LA
  • Delta wants to fly daily from Seattle, Detroit, LA, and Honolulu
  • Continental wants to fly daily from Newark and Guam
  • Hawaiian wants to fly twice daily from Honolulu

That’s 11 applications for 4 slot pairs. You math majors can figure out that not everyone is going to get what they want. The DOT says that it will decide this way.

Our principal objective in this proceeding will be to maximize the public benefits that will result from introducing U.S.-flag carrier service in the U.S.-Haneda market. In this regard, we will consider which applicant or applicants will most likely offer and maintain service that best meets the needs of the traveling and shipping public.

Now they don’t say it here, but I imagine this is supposed to be the American public and not the general public. With that in mind, Continental can kiss its Guam application goodbye and Hawaiian and Delta can forget about Honolulu. See, those markets are more important for Japanese tourists than anything else. So while the flights would be good for the local economy, they certainly aren’t strong enough candidates to support the American traveling public.

That leaves us with 7 applications for four slots. We’re getting closer. If I were a betting man, I’d say that Delta has the inside track. The other carriers will all be entering into joint ventures with Japanese carriers who will have their own slots to use. Delta is the only one who won’t have that option. As I said, I doubt we’ll see them get the Honolulu option, and to be honest, Seattle may be a tougher sell as well, but LA and Detroit seem quite plausible. After that, they’ll probably spread the wealth around, I’d imagine.

My biggest question is this . . . is anyone going to want to use these flights? Haneda may be closer to Tokyo than Narita, but the flight times (at least the eastbound ones) simply suck. The Japanese are only allowing these slots to be used when Narita is under curfew. So flights on US carriers to and from Haneda can only operate between 10p and 7a. What’s worse? Departures to the continental US can only occur between midnight and 7a. That’s a killer.

Take a look at American’s proposed Haneda schedule to get a good idea of what we’re working with. Flights from LA would leave at 645p and arrive Haneda at 1005p. That’s not that bad – you can get in a full day of work in LA and fly out. But the return? It leaves Haneda at 1205a and will arrive LA at 610p. Nobody wants to take a flight that leaves at midnight when you end up losing a full day on your way to LA anyway. And a 610p arrival will make only a few regional connections available from LA. I’d rather travel a bit further and go to Narita at a normal hour.

The problem is similar for an east coast trip. Flights from JFK would leave at 720p and arrive at 1020p. Not bad if you want to get in a full day of work in New York. But the return? It actually leaves at 7a, the latest possible, with a 650a arrival in New York. That’s certainly better than a midnight departure with an 1150p arrival. At least this schedule allows for connections, but it wastes so much time. You end up having to spend a full night in Tokyo when you probably would rather board a plane and head home.

The saving grace, again, is that only a few flights will be allowed. So I imagine they’ll do ok, but it’s not going to be ideal.

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35 Comments on "US Airlines Begin The Fight for Tokyo Haneda Slots"

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LAFlyer
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The connection possibilities out of LA seem to either be the regionals that you mentioned, or waiting a few hours and catching redeyes going east. I’ve done the double redeye before, and it’s not fun, to say the least. The LA flight seems like a pretty good option if your final destination is LA; get home by 8 oclock, then go to bed. But as a connecting option, as you mentioned, it doesnt have much appeal.

Christian
Guest

what’s wrong with those timings? If I lived in LA I reckon I’d go for the Haneda options every time, allowing me to do a days work and then travel in both directions. Narita is so far from Tokyo that Ryanair might even wince at the idea of calling it Tokyo…

Joe Jones
Guest

I live and work in Tokyo, and I find these schedules to be simply awesome. They open up many new possibilities for structuring business travel from Japan to the US.

David SF eastbay
Member
The airlines only want it so they can say they have it and the other guys don’t, which is why DL put in the four markets. UA from SFO and DL from DTW seem good because of the vast flight ops they have at those airports, if even to locals areas. UA can cover a lot of cities with a arrival time similiar to what AA has given for LAX. You are right that GUM/HNL are to small a market, but the times would work since it’s a lot of tourists on package deals so for a low price vacation,… Read more »
Ron
Guest
Cranky, once again I’ll compare Tokyo–West Coast with a market I’m intimately familiar with, New York–Tel Aviv. The markets are very similar in terms of flight distance and time-zone separation. For NYC–TLV, late-night departures are preferred: a typical weekday sees 3 flights (leaving at 21:05, 22:50, 23:50), compared to 2 afternoon departures (13:30, 15:55) and a less than daily evening departure (18:20). Moreover, historically the late-night flights are the more popular ones — whenever Continental goes down to 1x daily it is the 22:50 departure that they keep, and previous carriers (TWA, Tower Air) also used to prefer late-night departures.… Read more »
Ron
Guest

A separate issue: we’re talking slots here, not routes, right? What’s to prevent a carrier from getting a slot and then changing the US gateway?

Benji
Guest

@ David SFeastbay:

Damn! He beat me to it! This was EXACTLY what I was about to propose in my own comment (written before I read the other posts): “How about UA San Fran, AA Los Angeles, DL Detroit, and CO Newark? That will allow 4 major carriers 4 routes from separate US mainland sites (ie, no one overlaps with a given city or close pair like EWR and JFK).”

LAFlyer
Guest

Does anyone else find it interesting that Delta put in Detroit instead of Atlanta?

David SF eastbay
Member

LAFlyer wrote:

Does anyone else find it interesting that Delta put in Detroit instead of Atlanta?

No since it gives better connection options to more (some major) cities by it’s location on a map. It can feed down to/from the midwest, east coast, southern USA. With ATL no one really wants to connx in ATL and go back to the midwest or up to the east coast so it’s a smaller feed option to just the southern part of the U.S.

BF
Guest
Ron wrote: these timings are great for people ending their journey at LAX/SFO/SEA. Which frankly is where most people on these routes will end their journey. The DOT should be deciding on the basis of convenience to US travelers, but at the same time the majority on these flights will be Japanese people. On the west coast, my hunch is that those traveling for work will mostly stay in the metros where they land — which includes Silicon Valley for SFO, of course. Some of the tourists flying to LAX may end up in Vegas, but that requires only a… Read more »
The Traveling Optimist
Guest
The fact that the timing to/from the West Coast makes it attractive to LA is not the best “sell.” What’s the one thing Haneda has in abundance that Narita never has? DOMESTIC JAPANESE CONNECTIONS!!! American’s bid is boasting it’s alliance with Japan Airlines but guess what….all of JAL’s viable service has gone for the day by 10PM. Similarly, I’ve never seen a red-eye in Japan that gets to HND in time for the proposed 7AM flight to the US. I’ve worked with clients who have business in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita and Hakodate. Tokyo is certainly the lion’s share of… Read more »
coldtusker
Member

Do we have similar restrictions for Japanese carriers?
If not, we should. The Japanese get away with too much protection on their markets be it food, airlines, cars, etc…

hk2
Guest

Japanese carriers have same restriction, and it is US side who puts after-midnight-departure, otherwise JAL and ANA can go east coast at 10pm while US carriers cannot (since arrive 10pm, only after midnight return is possible).

Even with suck timing, airliners wants to launch anyway, because in 5 years or in 10 years, Haneda may open longhauls in daytime, eventually. Then the HND slots will be extremely valuable. We’ll see.

The Global Traveller
Guest

Thanks for the great post, Cranky.

@TheTravellingOptimist – good point about connections at Haneda. However I suspect fare pricing may discourage connecting pax. There should be a premium for the new services (which is why the airlines are so keen for the slots).

There will be some interesting dynamics for both transpac and intra-asia over the next short while due to the opening up of Haneda to medium and longhaul flights.

bhamric
Member
Actually there really isn’t a waste of time on the return flight from HND to LAX. Lets say you take a midnight flight from Tokyo on Wednesday morning, your arrival time in LA at 650pm is on TUESDAY. You will actually be going BACK in time six hours. So you can put in a full day at the office on Tuesday in Tokyo, go to HND, get your first class upgrade, get some sleep, land in LA at 7pm, go home and be back in the office in LA on Wednesday. It is a great gain in productivity as there… Read more »
Mark
Guest

You need to look at the LAX schedules again. You do not lose any days. You actually GAIN a day.

It leaves Tokyo just past midnight, and arrives in Los Angeles the PREVIOUS day. So the flight leaves Tokyo at 12.05am on Tuesday, and arrives in LA at 6.10pm on Monday. That schedule is actually pretty awesome, in my opinion.

BF
Guest

Jinx! Brian and Mark have to buy each other a Coke.

Andrew
Guest

The carriers that win, will they continue to serve NRT as well, or are they wanting to replace those flights with HND service?

Continental’s NRT service from EWR has never been quite as successful as other long-haul routes (DEL, BOM, TLV etc.) and their 777s are really all tied up, which is why I’m wondering if they will continue the NRT service. Of course, the flight may be doing better now that they’re in with Star…

Nick Barnard
Member

So is the reason there are no flights between Narita and Haneda due to worries that they’d fly into Godzilla?

The Traveling Optimist
Guest
a) Godzilla doesn’t fly. Gamera, Mecha-Godzilla, Rodan and King Ghidrah do. b) Neither airport would give up the slots needed to run a reasonable service. c) NRT-HND makes as much sense as SFO-SJC…just drive already! To the question regarding premiums to HND, I doubt they’d be any more effective in the market than (non-existent) premiums at LHR over LGW. Competition will wipe those out for one thing. Time value plus the cost of transport between NRT and downtown may have some number but again, not likely it will be included in to the price of the ticket. The HND premium… Read more »
BF
Guest

The Traveling Optimist wrote:

just drive already!

Or in the case of NRT-HND, just take the train! It appears the Keisei Electric Airway connects the two airports, and is it really that much of a hassle to take the Airport Express from NRT to downtown Tokyo? I mean, are there business executives who demand that they get on another plane to connect domestically when trains run direct from NRT station throughout the country?

BF
Guest

Electric Airway, geesh. Meant to write “Keisei Electric Railway,” of course. (Actual name of the service.)

thetravelingoptimist
Guest
BF…. After a 10-12 hour flight from either the US or Europe, even with the bullet trains what is the elapsed time between Tokyo and, say, Kitakyushu at the northernmost tip of Kyushu Island? There is a road and rail link to this city but by the time the passenger clears customs at Narita, takes the “Airway” (smile) to Tokyo Station and then connects god-knows-how many times, will they be awake for all of that much less get there at a reasonable hour? Doubtful. Domestic flights within Japan rarely stretch beyond 2.5 hours (HND-OKA). Whomever agreed to the operating window… Read more »
Joe
Guest

@ thetravelingoptimist:

Why use the most extreme example (“the northernmost tip of Kyushu Island”) to make your case? In point of fact, most Japan-bound travelers are traveling to major population centers they can reach as quickly by train as by plane.

thetravelingoptimist
Guest
Hi Joe… Actually that’s not the most extreme example. Okinawa is the most extreme though it is primarily a holiday destination. On Kyushu itself the major business centers is at Fukuoka, a little farther south. Other major destinations on that island are Kumamoto, Oita, Nagasaki and Kagoshima. The shuttle market between Tokyo and Osaka is huge but for most US travelers there’s no need for this service since there is sufficient lift from the US to both cities nonstop. To the north, Sapporo is the big hitter but still far easier to fly to than take trains or highways. So… Read more »
thetravelingoptimist
Guest
Andrew – Given the late arrival times in to Haneda, as Cranky pointed out, if you’re only going to Tokyo these flights are fine. No airline in their right mind will transfer all service to Haneda, however because all of the intra-Asian connections they need, alliance partners or not, are at Narita. Can’t get to Singapore through Haneda. Even if you could the flight will have left by the time your new US service gets there. Kind of like train stations in Paris, the two airports currently serve distinctly different purposes. One is domestic, the other overseas and the Japanese… Read more »
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[…] A bunch of US airlines (American, Continental, Delta, Hawaiian, and United) are vying for access to Haneda, and Cranky has all the details. […]

RL
Guest
Add me to the list of people who think the timing on these are awesome for the business traveler. Today, if I’m going NRT-SFO, my Star Alliance options both leave NRT before 5:30p. Last flight out on JL is at 6p. Even when UA adds its summer 7p flight, that still means I need to leave central Tokyo by 4p at the latest. Not ideal… and in the past this means staying in Tokyo one more night if I have a meeting that may run past 4p. I’d love a midnight flight back to the West Coast from a close… Read more »
RL
Guest

Have JL or NH indicated what their HND->US plans may be? When can we expect these flights to actually start? Thanks

David SF eastbay
Member

Looks like the awarding has begun. AA has been given JFK-HND-JFK start in October 2010.

So much for my quess was in February. I had said…. UA for SFO, DL for DTW, CO for EWR, and AA for LAX. Let’s see how I do with the other three awards…lol

bhamric
Member

Detroit Metro Airport is reporting Delta has received permission to begin HND-DTW as well.

David SF eastbay
Member

Brian looks like DL got DTW and LAX and Hawaiian got HNL. Well I got one out of four quesses right…..lol

SEMTSensei
Guest

Heard form JAL yesterday, and this is exciting – y’all write from the Business perspective, with which my husband agrees, however I look at this as an educator who regularly takes students to Japan. Closer will be lovely, and Narita is rarely anything but a pain. My first trip to Japan was in 1977, so to Haneda, and I look forward to going back!

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