It’s here! It’s here! Maybe I need to tone it down a notch, but the tentative decision on which airlines will get the new daytime slots at Tokyo’s Haneda airport is out. And the results are… as expected. Oh but wait, there is one surprise. Our frozen friends in Minnesota are going to be very happy.
As a brief background, remember that Tokyo’s close-in Haneda airport is highly desirable. Not only is it closer to town, but as we all know, it’s the only airport that doesn’t require passing Godzilla’s home on the way in. Ever since Narita opened, Haneda has been primarily for domestic flights, but that has been changing. A few years ago, the US made a deal with Japan that opened up four slots at Haneda for US carriers.
Unfortunately, thanks to dumbassery on this side of the Pacific, those Haneda slots were only good for flights at night. Of the initial awards, only half are still operating today. Hawaiian had no problem running its Honolulu flights that way. And Delta has, through sheer will, kept its LAX flights running. But Delta’s Detroit flight failed, moved to Seattle, and then failed again. Now American picked up that slot and runs it out of LA. Meanwhile American’s original flight from New York was abandoned, and United turned that into a San Francisco flight.
In the last round of negotiations, it was agreed that US carriers would be given access to two more slots at Haneda for a total of six. The best part? Five of those could be run during the day making them far more commercially viable.
One of the most vocal opponents to all of this has been Delta. (I know, you’re shocked.) After all, United and American both have effectively unlimited access to Haneda with their joint venture partners ANA and Japan Airlines respectively. Delta, however, only has its lonely hub at Narita. It wants to be able to move its whole hub to Haneda or it wants no liberalization at all. Obviously, Delta failed at stopping improved Haneda access, so it had to play the game to see how much it could walk away with.
In the end, every airline that had a route to Haneda wanted to keep it. The Department of Transportation (DOT) thought that was a good idea. That means Delta and American will keep flying from LA, Hawaiian from Honolulu, and United from San Francisco. It’s just now they’ll be able to shift the existing flights to run during the normal hours when people want to travel to and from Japan.
In Delta’s case, it has already filed schedules from LA, and at the same time, it dropped its Narita flight. For people going to Japan, Narita becomes an afterthought. But this does mean that people in LA can’t connect to other Delta flights beyond Tokyo. We’ll see whether others cut Narita flights and deprive Godzilla of food as well.
With those four slots committed, that left two more slots up for grabs. One wasn’t a surprise, and that was the only remaining night slot. Hawaiian was the only airline that wanted it, and DOT already gave its blessing. See, night operations aren’t bad for Japanese travelers visiting Hawai’i. And with this slot, Hawaiian will split the week between Honolulu and Kona, giving the latter its first international route in several years. Good news.
And then there was one. The last daytime slot was hotly-contested with four requests. United wanted Newark, American wanted Dallas/Ft Worth, and Delta wanted both Minneapolis (first) and Atlanta (second).
The DOT effectively laughed at United’s Newark request since joint venture partner ANA will be starting a flight to JFK (as well as Chicago, I might add).
American was in a better place. The DOT really liked American’s flight from Dallas/Ft Worth, but in the end, it did what it should have done and gave Delta, the only one of the big three without a Japanese partner, one more flight.
Apparently for the DOT, it was important for the flight to “offer geographic diversity… which would serve a broad catchment area with arguably less circuity.” In other words, the DOT really cared about physical geographical location and connecting opportunities. This isn’t about providing the most benefit to the most people on a nonstop basis. It’s about providing the most benefit to the most people around the country. For that reason, Atlanta lost and Minneapolis won. Go figure.
The funny thing is that the DOT is putting Delta on notice. Basically, it’s saying “do not screw with us again, punks.” Or in the DOT’s words…
In light of Delta’s past conduct, should our tentative decision in favor of Delta at Minneapolis be finalized, we have tentatively decided to condition the award of that authority: in the event that Delta were to significantly deviate from its Minneapolis proposal in this proceeding, Delta’s authority would automatically terminate and a backup carrier’s authority would automatically activate…
Them’s fightin’ words. The backup authority, as you may have guessed, is for American from Dallas/Ft Worth. This puts a lot of pressure on Delta to make Minneapolis work. Even if it doesn’t, Delta might want to think twice about cutting the flight anyway.
So there you have it. We’ll see these flights up and running fairly soon, I’d imagine, after the decision is finalized.