With Four More Tokyo/Haneda Slots, Delta Could Pull Out of Its Ever-Shrinking Narita Hub Entirely

If you like the game “death by a thousand cuts,” then you’ll love what Delta has been doing at Tokyo’s Narita Airport. With the creation of the joint venture with Korean and the opening up of Haneda, we all knew that Delta’s Narita hub was on its death bed. But the most recent cuts to the airline’s most-profitable beach markets were actually a surprise to me in that I figured they would be the last Narita routes standing. I was wrong, and now the way I figure it, Delta is four Haneda slots away from pulling out of Narita entirely.

The Tokyo Narita hub has a long history dating back to the end of World War II. In the spoils of war, Northwest (and Pan Am) won the right to use Tokyo as a hub for flying into Asia. Their airplanes couldn’t get much further from the US at the time, so this was a huge advantage for serving the continent. A lot has changed since that time. Longer-range aircraft meant that Northwest (and Delta post-merger) could overfly the Narita hub and get passengers from the US to important Asian cities without a stop. That was a big blow to the hub.

Things accelerated when Haneda was opened up for limited US flights. Haneda is closer to Tokyo and the nearby second-largest Japanese city of Yokohama, is strongly preferred by Japanese travelers, and avoids that perilous journey into the city past Godzilla’s home.

Delta never got enough Haneda slots to move the entirety of its remaining Narita operation, so it moved the flights it could, and then let the skeleton of Narita hold on for dear life. Once relations thawed between Delta and its partner Korean, they formed a joint venture which would flow traffic via Incheon instead of Tokyo. The end was clearly near for Narita.

Slowly but surely, routes were cut from Narita. Since I last wrote about this in 2016, Delta cut its flights from Narita to Taipei and will end Shanghai in July. It also stopped flying to Guam last month in the face of a dramatic decrease in demand after the saber-rattling from North Korea. None of these were particularly surprising, but last week’s announcement that Delta’s Palau and Saipan flights would end this May was more shocking.

Delta serves three kinds of routes from Narita.

Mainland US
These are your traditional Narita routes connecting travelers from the US to Tokyo and beyond. Today, thanks to the opening of Haneda, there are only four of these routes left flying: Portland, Seattle, Detroit, and Atlanta.

Intra-Asia
These are the routes that Americans could connect on to go beyond Tokyo. After Shanghai ends in July, there will only be two of these left. The first is Singapore, a high-dollar market that Delta can’t yet serve nonstop from the US due to aircraft limitations. The other is Manila, a market with more demand from Tokyo itself than from the US. It’s low-yield and has been downgauged significantly from a 747 to a 767 in recent years. I would expect this is living on borrowed time.

Beach
The last and seemingly-strongest market segment involves beach markets which are almost entirely for Japanese people looking for some sun. In an interview with CEO Ed Bastian last year, I asked about these particular markets. He said:

Ninety-five percent of the traffic is the local market. We’ve got longstanding relationships in the local market. Delta’s well known within the trade on those [flights]. Historically they’ve been the most profitable part of the Narita operation, the beaches, and I think they will continue to be a sought after destination.

Well, so much for that. With Guam, Saipan, and Palau disappearing, that leaves just one beach market… Honolulu. It’s not just Narita that has Honolulu flights either. You may be surprised to know that Delta also flies to Honolulu from Osaka, Nagoya, and even Fukuoka. But clearly if that was the “most profitable” part of the Narita operation, then the Narita operation is on death’s door.

So now we wait. The way I figure it, Delta is four Haneda slots away from shutting down Narita completely.

If Delta gets four slots, it can then move Atlanta, Seattle, Detroit, and Honolulu over. Once that happens, the Manila and Singapore flights would disappear. I’d imagine Singapore would then be served via Incheon (likely on Korean metal) until Delta decides it can reliably fly a full aircraft from Seattle to Singapore nonstop. Manila would probably just go away, though it would be reachable via Incheon as well for the American that want to go there. Barring some big corporate contract keeping Portland to Narita in place, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that flight shift to Incheon to feed the joint venture with Korean once it’s up and running.

At that point, Narita becomes nothing but a distant memory. What’s most remarkable is that once those Singapore and Manila flights go, then all US use of Japan for fifth freedom flights beyond into Asia will cease. (United, the heir to the Pan Am network, already ended its flying beyond Tokyo thanks to its ANA joint venture.) Those routes served an important purpose when airplanes couldn’t physically fly people nonstop from the US. Now, we’re very close to those simply being a memory. It’s hard to believe that we’re close to a day when Delta/Northwest doesn’t even serve Narita at all.

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57 Responses to With Four More Tokyo/Haneda Slots, Delta Could Pull Out of Its Ever-Shrinking Narita Hub Entirely

  1. Gary Leff says:

    “The Narita hub has a long history dating back to the end of World War II. In the spoils of war, Northwest (and Pan Am) won the right to use Tokyo as a hub for flying into Asia.”

    But Delta says US airlines aren’t government-supported, only Gulf carriers are. Subsidies aren’t just dollars, they’re guns.

    • Eric Morris says:

      Thank you for speaking the truth, Gary. Apparently it hurts many people that read this blog.

      • Andy says:

        The down votes aren’t about people being upset, they’re about the total irrelevance of this comment to the post at hand. Being this up on one of the numerous posts cranky has made about the subsidy debate, not here where we want to read about Narita, Haneda, and intra Asia flying.

        • Eric Morris says:

          Gary quoted directly from the article. Apparently the down voters have a very strict definition of relevance. I guess the “strict constructionists” write the majority opinions here.

    • Nick says:

      Are you really comparing the current subsidies EK, EY and QR receive to the US occupation of Japan in the 1940’s? Both airlines who were the direct benefits aren’t even around anymore. There are some legitimate complaints about US subsidies but I think you’re stretching pretty far here.

  2. ChuckMO says:

    A slight correction Brett. The Tokyo hubs of NW and PA date back to the end of WW2, but Narita Airport itself did not open until 1978.

  3. tvmccabe says:

    It is interesting that many years ago United started to deemphaze NRT with more non stops from the US skipping Marita. Bejing and Hong Kong non stops clearly changed the market as Cathay non stops started to pull all the Hong Kong connecting traffic off of the Tokyo trips. NW and then Delta took too long to respond. Amazing to see DL may exit Narita

  4. SEA Flyer says:

    At one time DL (or perhaps pre-merger NW) flew SEA-HND as well as SEA-NRT. Why did it drop the SEA-HND flight rather than the SEA-NRT flight? I figured at the time that it needed the NRT traffic to support the hub.

    • CF says:

      SEA Flyer – Well, at the time Haneda flights could only operate at night when Narita was closed. The Seattle flight was just an awful performer, and Delta pulled the plug on it, not wanting to take the losses any more.
      Eventually, the US and Japan agreed to open up Haneda to daytime flights, and so the dynamic changed.

  5. Jimmy says:

    That PDX-NRT flight sure is the odd one out. It’s pretty clear that PDX can support a flight to Asia even with minimal feed on either end, but it would make a lot more sense if it were an Alaska partner like JAL or Korean operating that flight.

    • Bill from DC says:

      Could KAL run a PDX-ICN flight that code shared with DL and AS? If so, that seems like a winner.

      • Alex+Hill says:

        AS doesn’t put their code on partner long haul flights, but otherwise yes. KE could fly to PDX and put their code on AS flights out of PDX. But I have trouble seeing that; DL clearly doesn’t want their joint venture partners partnering with AS instead of keeping the revenue inside the JV.

  6. Doug Swalen says:

    I get a laugh every time Palau gets called a “beach” destination…because anyone who has been there can tell you the few beaches that do exist at resorts are chiefly man-made and hard as a rock. The soft sand natural beaches are mostly located well away from civilization and you have to be boated out there on day trips or you rent a car and head up the Babeldaob coast. Palau isn’t like Saipan, Guam, and Hawaii with natural beaches right at the resorts.

  7. It isn’t just landing slots at Haneda. There’s also the Japan-US bilateral that limits total operations from Haneda to US markets. Delta’s Narita operation isn’t going anywhere unless the bilateral changes or Delta decides to slash Tokyo service.

    As for PDX shifting to ICN, I thought much of that demand was O/D to Japan, not onward into Asia. DL doesn’t really provide great connections except to that handful of destinations.

    • CF says:

      Wandering – Of course, not just as simple as getting 4 slots and calling it a day. But my main point is that Delta needs a whole lot less to get rid of Narita than it did just a couple years ago.

      As for Portland, I don’t know all the details. But if that flight is living solely off local traffic, that’s pretty impressive. I have to imagine even if the local traffic was strong, the flight still used to rely on pushing people through the hub to help fill the rest of the airplanes.
      At this point, Delta can now only connect to Manila and Singapore online, and it does still have interlines. (I recently booked someone connecting from that flight on to ANA to Okinawa on the same ticket.) But with connectivity drying up, unless there’s some huge corporate account that really needs Tokyo (Nike?) then it seems like this flight is going to have trouble making it in the long run.

      • Tim Dunn says:

        Despite having a smaller intra-Asia presence, DOT data shows that DL’s share of the US mainland to Tokyo market (both NRT and HND) is the largest of US carriers. The US-Japan market is smaller due to lower fares for all carriers but DL has shifted to being less of a connecting carrier at NRT while retaining its position as the largest US carrier. Average fares have fallen more for DL than for UA but DL’s average fares from the mainland/continental US to Tokyo but according to DOT data, DL still carries the most revenue from the US mainland to Tokyo on its metal.
        NW built a very strong franchise in Japan even while helping JAL rebuild post WWII, Delta immediately after the merger with NW had to deal with market realities that Japan wouldn’t work as a hub long term while the Japanese government has worked hard to try to reduce DL’s presence in Japan by forcing it to cut its intra-Asia presence by granting piecemeal access to Haneda.
        DL is certainly not the size in Japan it was due to a reduction and likely eventual elimination of the intra-Asia flying and a reduction in some beach market flying due to economic factors that affect all carriers. However, DL’s overall presence in the mainland US to Tokyo market remains strong in a shrinking market.
        NW built a great franchise in Japan and DL has worked hard to maintain as much of it as possible – and evidence says they are doing a good job.

  8. dan tana says:

    I took pictures at the NRT-NWA hub with 20 747’s parked at the gates for the FUGU bank…the number of passengers flying in and out of NRT has actually increased every year…just that DL currently has put 11 of their 12 eggs in domestic flying vs international flying…the other day I counted 42 international destinations DL has discontinued in the last decade

    • Bill from DC says:

      FUGU?

      • dan tana says:

        fugu is a japanese fish that if over-cooked you die…if under-cooked you die…fugu bank was the 2 hr period…where all the nrt connexions were made

        • Hajime Sano says:

          Fugu is the Japanese word for blowfish. It derives from fuku, the Japanese verb “to blow”. I understand the fugu neurotoxin can give one a buzz if properly prepared. If improperly prepared, it can kill you.

          • 727Seattle says:

            I recall some nw-nw flights allowed passengers to transfer via connected skybridge links – no need to step into the terminal.

    • Kevin says:

      FUGU was poetry in motion. Long live the Red Tail.

  9. DesertGhost says:

    I’m not in the know about these things, but I have to wonder when four new slots are going to become available; and if Delta can secure all four, which I seriously doubt it will.

  10. PeteyNice says:

    I don’t think Delta needs four more slots. I think one or two would be sufficient, depending on what you wanted to do with HNL.

    Minneapolis and Portland are better served with the connection opportunities in ICN. Delta currently only flies to Seoul and Narita as Asian destinations from Atlanta. I don’t see dropping direct Tokyo service as a big loss there.

    At the end of the day, Delta only needs to fly to Tokyo from Detroit, Seattle, and LA. This would require one additional slot. Two if you also threw HNL in there too.

    • Hoss says:

      This is incorrect. Detroit is the main Asian Gateway (PEK,PVG,NRT,ICN,NGO) from the easy coast. ATL has ICN, NRT and PVG as of next month (July18)

  11. Will Schilling says:

    Let’s just say for argument that North Korea steps up more than saber-rattling. Incheon becomes a major target. At this point, completely getting rid of Narita would then backfire because what American traveler would want to risk going through ICN to connect onto KE metal (and you darn well know those would be targets flying in and out of ICN, not to mention any US metal)?

    Delta would be wise to hold onto Narita for the time being. I’ve never been a fan of putting your eggs in one basket and that seems to be what’s going on here.

    • CF says:

      Will – Delta already has just about no hub left, so even if something happens in Korea, it’s not like Delta can all of a sudden service those people via Tokyo. ANA is with United, JAL is with American, and there’s just no room for a Delta hub. Instead, what Delta has done is overflown Tokyo so Americans can get to every major city they need connecting via the US… with the exception of some of the more distant destinations in Southeast Asia that can’t support a nonstop yet (like Singapore and Bangkok). Incheon gets people into 30 or more cities in China, along with a ton of other smaller cities that Delta can’t even service via Tokyo today.

    • RGCox says:

      Or flight crew

    • Tim Dunn says:

      More N. Korean missiles have overflown Japan than S. Korea.

  12. GringoLoco says:

    Don’t really care what DL does with NRT — just don’t you DARE retire the classic Godzilla map!

  13. Oz13126 says:

    Well done. Great article.

  14. David says:

    You are so right and so wrong at the same time with this post. You nailed it with the the comment about barring a major corporate contract for PDX-NRT. Of course there is a major corporate contract for this route. Which company is by far the biggest in Oregon? And do you think they travel to Asia a bit? Perhaps this route could transition to ICN in the future, but DL will definitely stay in the PDX-Asia market.

  15. Tim Dunn says:

    The subject of Delta’s NRT hub seems to gather a whole lot of emotion – but facts seem to be in short supply.
    1. NW knew the NRT hub would not be viable over the long-term which is why they ordered the 787. Because the 787 was delayed, NW never was able to implement any of the changes so the process was left to DL. The reality of other carriers’ nonstop flights overflying Tokyo was well known to NW.
    2. NW’s Pacific strategy was built around Tokyo because they didn’t have the market size in the western US to support Pacific flights to other parts of Asia besides Japan using 747s which was the primary aircraft they had at the time.
    3. Delta dropped NRT-PVG in order to fly ATL-PVG, giving it 4 US gateways to PVG which is the same as UA and one more than AA. Because of treat limits, there is no assurance that there will be any further PVG slots provided for US airlines.
    4. Multiple airlines have reduced GUM service including UA. If DL’s decision to cancel NRT-GUM is due to dehubbing its NRT hub, what is UA’s excuse?
    5. NRT-TPE has several low cost carriers in the market as well as 4 carriers at each of the two ends of the route that were much larger.
    6. UA dropped multiple NRT flights and yet doesn’t carry anywhere near as much local traffic as they once did; their presence in some of the markets has decreased because they haven’t increased capacity from those cities to the US to replace what they lost via Japan.
    7. DL is still the 2nd largest carrier across the Pacific behind UA and the number of flights from the mainland US to east Asia has increased over the past 5 years. Delta has traded its intra-Asian presence for a larger transpacific presence. Delta carries the most passengers from the US to Haneda and average fares are higher than at NRT just as DL expected they would be. In markets like LAX that have both NRT and HND service, DL carries more local LAX to Tokyo revenue via HND than other US carriers that have service to both Tokyo airports. MSP-HND carries more passengers than any other non-west coast or Hawaii flight to Haneda regardless if for US or Japanese carriers.
    8. Approval of the Korean JV will very likely lead to additional flights. While a lot of people want to believe that DL will drop MNL and SIN, the chances are that they have kept what they intend to fly on their own metal.
    9. The expanded SEA international arrivals facilities will come as the A330-900s come online and the remaining A350s will provide longhaul international growth capacity given that all former 744 flights plus other routes will be operated by A350s by this summer even while the 777 fleet is not going away. DL has a considerable amount of potential transpacific capacity coming online in the next couple of years.
    10. It is true that DL will likely end NRT service if it obtains slots at HND to operate ATL, DTW, SEA, HNL and they very likely will restart JFK service if they can get HND slots. As has happened before, DL will likely be given more slots than AA or UA given that both of those carriers have JVs with Japanese carriers.

    • CF says:

      Tim – On point 4, United just downgauged Narita- Guam while demand is low.
      If/when demand comes back, it can always go right back up. That’s very different than pulling out. But Delta never said that it left Guam because it was pulling down the hub. But Saipan and Palau? There isn’t really another reason like there is for Guam.

      • Tim Dunn says:

        United has a hub at GUM as a result of their merger with CO and has a larger share of the Japan-GUM market. All of the island markets are related and I suspect the contracts for SPN etc go thru some of the same agencies that deal with GUM. I doubt if a carrier could succeed at SPN without GUM.

        Embedded in the discussion is that DL uses 757s to operate its Mircronesia service. They undoubtedly have also looked at how much revenue they can generate with those same aircraft on the mainland.

        What should be clear is that DL doesn’t hold onto markets that don’t make money and DOT data also bears out that DL makes far more money flying the Pacific than either AA or UA do.

        Is it sexy to serve several destinations in Micronesia that really aren’t related to the NRT hub but are simply point to point routes that operate from there? Sure… the intra-Asia major routes such as BKK are more significant and the hope is that DL will maintain and grow its service to other parts of Asia besides Japan, ICN and China but DL has never been keen to hold onto status routes at the cost of profitability. More importantly, DL’s relative position in Asia and in the Japan local market among US carriers has not changed despite the route cuts at NRT.

        • CF says:

          Tim – If that’s the case, then it’s entirely Delta’s fault. As Ed admitted to me in last year’s interview, the Beach markets were the most profitable, and they were all local Japan travelers. Northwest was skilled in building relationships with the agencies in Japan, so it was a nice niche. Either that changed quickly and Delta had no patience, or Delta strategically decided that even profitable small markets weren’t worth keeping.

          • Tim Dunn says:

            Again, CF, how do you square UA’s reduction of GUM service? Was that all their fault that they have pulled down their Micronesia service?
            And why does it matter if Delta hubs in Tokyo when they still carry more revenue between the US mainland and Tokyo on their own aircraft among US carriers? DL still is the 2nd largest carrier across the Pacific. They are the 2nd largest US carrier to China? What goal should they have that necessitates them keeping NRT as a hub – and if there are no goals that necessitate NRT as a hub, why does it matter if they have restructured their operation?

            DL said years ago as a result of the Japanese government’s attempts to open HND on a piecemeal basis that NRT would no longer be viable as a hub.

            Now that there are multiple quarters’ worth of data available that show that HND really does get better average fares than NRT given comparable schedules (which should come as no surprise to anyone), why should DL stick around and connect passengers thru NRT when it still carries more local Tokyo passengers and revenue between the continental US and Tokyo.

            The point of an airline is not to maintain historic vestiges which are not necessary but to make money for its stockholders (to be shared employees which tomorrow will receive massive profit sharing checks).

            The point is to serve markets in the most efficient way to generate the highest profits. DL simply does not need to hub at NRT any longer to achieve its goals either in Japan or Asia.

            • CF says:

              Tim – I’m not following. Who is suggesting that Delta should keep Narita open as a hub just to funnel passengers through it? The Beach markets had nothing to do with a Narita hub. It’s nearly entirely local market traffic from Japan. And it was highly profitable. This flying really was separate from the hub in that it didn’t matter to the rest of the network. It was profitable enough to keep it flying. Either now it’s not somehow, or Delta has made a decision that it’s not worth flying for some other reason.

            • Tim Dunn says:

              Your article above connects the future of the NRT hub to several factors including the beach markets. The NRT hub is tied to connecting passengers to the major business centers of E. Asia. We are in agreement that the NRT connecting market is being replaced by nonstop flights to those cities in Asia. My point is that DL’s share of the local Japan market as well its overall presence in Asia in E. Asia is unchanged relative to its major competitors including AA and UA. DL also makes far more money flying to Asia than its US counterparts. DL has successfully managed to restructure its Asia connecting operation – minus MNL and SIN which continue to operate via NRT – to nonstop flights from the US.

              The beach markets, as we both agree, aren’t part of the NRT hub per se because they are local markets. DL is just as subject to the economics of any market as any other carrier which in this case means UA, which is also cutting its GUM service. Both DL and UA are cutting Micronesia service due to weak demand. Factor in that Micronesia is flown by DL 757s which can very likely generate more revenue in the US, and maintaining a limited narrowbody operation in Asia to serve the beach markets may not justify their expenses; the opportunity cost for moving those aircraft out of Asia and to the US is greater, including adding service in major transcon markets which is where 757 growth is happening at DL. Not having the beach markets might facilitate moving the remainder of DL’s NRT operation to HND when that opportunity arises but for now the beach markets are as profitable as the market allows. Also note that even as DL and UA cut GUM along with other carriers, JL is expanding in it. JL has long had a focus on beach market flying.

              Bottom line is that the NRT hub reductions (smaller gauge to the US mainland and fewer intra-Asia major markets) are driven by the piecemeal opening of HND. The beach market reductions are driven by weaker market demand. At some point, DL says that maintaining a standalone narrowbody operation for Micronesia is not worth it given much smaller demand if it can operate all of its Tokyo transpacific flights from HND.

              You haven’t made a prediction as to when more HND frequencies for US carriers become available.
              I still will bet that after the 2020 Olympics, Japan will provide enough new slots at HND for DL to be able to move its entire transpacific operation from NRT to HND. Because the US has made sure that DL gets more slots than AA or UA to HND because of the AA/JL and UA/NH JVs, DL will likely get enough slots to move ATL, DTW, SEA, and HNL (which will probably be reduced to one flight) and then restart JFK to Tokyo. DL wanted to fly JFK-HND but was not willing to fly JFK-NRT with JL and NH flying to HND.

              Given that the Japanese government’s stated goal is to move all “premium carrier” transpacific flights to HND, JL and NH’s hubs at NRT are probably not going to survive much longer than DL’s NRT hub will. Their HND operations are much larger creating more connections, they want access from the US to close-in HND, and they know along with DL that HND flights get higher average fares than to NRT from the same US airport.

              Thus, I don’t think there is anything that will happen with DL at NRT that won’t also happen to JL and NH as well. The difference will be that DL will get enough slots to fly its whole schedule or NH and JL won’t be able to move their whole US operations and will be faced with a weak US operation with few remaining US to NRT flights. Because of the JVs, unless Japan fully opens up HND to whatever slots US carriers want, AA and UA might end up with smaller HND operations than they have at NRT now. And if DL is free to add as many HND flights as it wants, it might well add a couple of beyond Tokyo flights from HND.

              There is a lot that remains to be seen regarding NRT vs. HND but there is nothing that uniquely paints DL into a corner in Japan or in the larger US-E. Asia market.

              I enjoy you that you continue to look at the Tokyo airport issue but it has to be viewed in the context of what is happening for all carriers and in terms of the larger trends that are happening for all carriers which include that Japan is less and less important as a transpacific hub – which AA, DL and UA are all using as part of their transpacific strategies.

              Again, thanks for the engaging discussion.

  16. A Kindred Soul aka Norman L. Wherrett, Jr. says:

    Can’t remember. Did Northwest Orient Airlines fly north-Pacific via TYO to MNL….Using what aircraft in 1954?
    Pan American World Airways went mid-Pacific to MNL with Stratocruisers.  I lived there in ’54. Dr Norman L Wherrett Jr

  17. Hajime Sano says:

    Will the run up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics provide enough additional demand that DL might wait a little before cutting NRT service?

    • Tim Dunn says:

      Delta likely will retain all of its mainland US to Japan flights until they can be accommodated at HND regardless of whether that changes before or after the Olympics. Japan had originally said it wanted to expand HND and push toward its goal of making NRT a heavily low cost carrier airport while all long haul international flights by global carriers would operate from HND. If Delta pulls completely out of NRT, most of the AA/JL and NH/UA flights will likely move as well.

      Based on the historical formula the US has used for DL getting twice as many US-HND flights as AA/UA individually, if DL gets enough flights to move its NRT operation completely to HND, AA/JL and NH/UA will gain enough flights to fly all of their current markets to/from HND as well, including the rights JL and NH get from the Japanese government.

      The shift of premium carrier (AA, DL, UA, NH, JL) service from NRT to HND is part of the Japanese government’s Tokyo airport strategy. What happens to DL at NRT will happen to other carriers as well; some European carriers already have shifted most or all of their Tokyo flights to Haneda.

      And all of this is taking place because Tokyo is no longer as necessary for transpacific connections as it once was. The fact that AA, DL and UA all fly more than half of their US-East Asia flights without stopping in Japan says the Japanese government is merely trying to develop an airport strategy to keep up with market realities which Delta has seen and is already adapting to.

    • CF says:

      Hsano – The Olympics are notoriously bad for airlines in general, so I can’t imagine Delta basing any decision on that far-off event, especially since United is the official airline anyway.

  18. ralf says:

    as a pdx-based flier I can tell you for sure Nike has a contract for that NRT route. So does Columbia Sportswear that has HQ here too. (Nike employees get biz class tho) but it’s unclear if it’s just an Asia connector (most of Nike’s employees end up in Taiwan or China, not Japan, same with Columbia). Intel has 60k employees in Portland and the mini-tech sector that fueled the PDX Asia Delta hub in the 80s still travel to Japan on the reg.
    Does Delta see PDX as important intl? They just moved an LHR route to Portland when Virgin took the SEA one. DL has an AMS route too.

    • Tim Dunn says:

      The chances are high that DL will convert its PDX-NRT flight to another transpac flight, very possibly to ICN but they aren’t going to make any announcements until the joint venture with KE is approved in both the US and S. Korea (US approval has already been given but S. Korea has not signed off).
      PDX is an important city to DL with one of the largest non-hub/non-focus city international operations. As in several other medium sized cities where there is no other US carrier longhaul international service, DL uses its international presence in PDX to strength its presence in the overall local market as well as in the larger PNW market and the west coast that DL is not likely to walk away from.

    • Tim Dunn says:

      Update: In checking DOT data, about half of the traffic and more than half of the revenue on DL’s PDX-NRT flight is NRT terminating traffic, mostly originating in PDX but with some connections from the rest of Delta’s network. DL carries more NRT traffic on its PDX flight than some other US carriers on their NRT flights. There is likely enough traffic to support a standalone PDX-NRT flight; Certainly NH or JL would jump on it if Delta left meaning that DL is likely to hold onto the flight until it can move it to HND and potentially add some beyond flights from HND. The SIN and MNL flights do provide enough volume to all of DL’s remaining NRT flights that the beyond NRT flights are likely to remain as long as the economics of those flights remain favorable. Remember that PVG (and PEK) was discontinued because the treaty between the US and China limits the number of flights and DL’s NRT flights counted in that number. DL can use the PVG frequency much more effectively from the US – in this case ATL.

  19. RGCox says:

    I think of all the Japanese farmers who protested the taking of their farmland to build NRT runways. So now what? A concrete wasteland 35 years later?

    • Tim Dunn says:

      The Japanese government has said that it wants NRT to eventually be the low cost airport for Tokyo including for longhaul international low cost flights while “premium carrier” international flights are to/from HND. JL and NH benefit from their larger hubs at HND while all carriers that use HND benefit from its closer access to downtown Tokyo for higher value local Tokyo traffic.

  20. Champlin_Al says:

    Might it be a thought to fly Seattle 4/wk N/S to Singapore and 3/wk N/S to Manila for a trial period to see if they can be sustainable? Delta does have aircraft available (since the termination of daily SEA-HKG nonstop in OCT 2018) and still have a few more A350-900 on order. The “Delta thinking” to utilize Seoul (ICN) as a connection point joint venture to allow US passengers to still have a fairly good way to arrive at these two destinations, works but not as well has it once did.

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