Delta Pushes to End Its Narita Hub, But Others Have a Different Plan

American, Delta, Hawaiian, United

Next year, another round of slots at Tokyo’s close-in Haneda airport opens up, and the battle to procure them has begun. American, Delta, Hawaiian, and United have all staked their claims with some looking to gain more than others. This isn’t a transformative change for any of the airlines except for Delta. If Delta gets what it wants, it should mean the end of its Narita operation entirely.

I’m sure I don’t need to remind you why Haneda is so much more desirable than Narita, but, well, of course I’m going to do just that.

Right now, access into Haneda is very tight for US carriers. There are only five slot pairs available for daytime flights from the US. (American has one for Los Angeles, Delta has two for Los Angeles and Minneapolis, Hawaiian has one for Honolulu, and United has one for San Francisco) plus one night-time slot that Hawaiian uses. But starting in the 2020 summer season (travel begins in early Spring), there will be up to an additional 12 daytime slot pairs available. That’s a whole lot, but there’s already more demand for them then there are slots available. Here’s what the big three want.

  • American – 4 of the slot pairs, two for flights from Dallas/Fort Worth and one each for flights from Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
  • Delta – 6 of the slot pairs, two for flights from Honolulu and one each for flights from Atlanta, Detroit, Portland, and Seattle.
  • Hawaiian – 3 of the slot pairs for flights from Honolulu.
  • United – 6 of the slot pairs, one each for flights from Chicago, Guam, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, and Washington/Dulles.

Let’s look at these in order.

An Interesting, Targeted Play By American

American is playing this different than the others. Today the airline has two daily flights to Narita from Dallas/Fort Worth, and this would presumably just move them to Haneda. That may seem odd since its joint venture partner Japan Airlines would probably prefer to keep at least one of those feeding Narita. Then again, JAL already has a flight on its own metal to Dallas, so maybe that’s enough.

The Los Angeles move is also surprising for the same reason. American has one flight to Haneda today and the other to Narita. So this presumably would move the other Narita flight to Haneda, again leaving only the JAL flight into Narita.

Lastly there’s the Vegas flight. American and JAL should be flying from Tokyo to more non-hub cities in the western US, but this will be a tough one. Why not just do it from Narita where slots aren’t an issue? Well, this flight appeals much more to Japanese point-of-sale, and Haneda is strongly preferred by those in Japan. This is going to require JAL to put a lot of work in to make it a success, so I’m a bit skeptical. But hey, worth a shot, I guess.

Hawaiian Focuses on Honolulu

For Hawaiian, it’s something of a no-brainer. Today it has one daily flight from Honolulu to Narita and 11 a week to Haneda. This is complemented by Japan Airlines flights as well, so there is already a huge presence. But Hawaiian wants more to feed the bottomless pit of Japanese demand, and this would certainly allow that.

United Goes Broad

Then there’s United. United is just trying to spread the love around and hit every big hub it has with Haneda flights. If United were to get all these flights, I’d be very surprised to see them all work. But I can see why United would take a swing for the fences anyway, even if it would hurt its joint venture partner ANA’s hub at Narita.

Delta Tries to Leave Narita Entirely

I’ve saved the most fun for last. You may remember my post just over a year ago entitled “With Four More Tokyo/Haneda Slots, Delta Could Pull Out of Its Ever-Shrinking Narita Hub Entirely.” Well, here Delta is looking for slots to do exactly that.

The four necessary slots to which I was referring were for flights to Atlanta, Detroit, Portland, and Seattle. Those are the only mainland US points that Delta has going into Narita today, and those are exactly the flights for which Delta applied. It looks like Delta also wants to keep flying to Honolulu, so it asked for two slots there as well. The only other flights it has at Narita today are flights beyond to Singapore and Manila. Without any US feed, those would clearly be useless and disappear.

My Unscientific Ruling

So what’s going to happen here? I have no idea, but I know what I’d do if I were king. Delta is at a disadvantage in Tokyo since it has no partner hub to feed, so I would definitely give Delta at least the four slots for mainland US service. The fifth one for Honolulu, meh, not as concerned since that’s really for the Japanese market and not US originating traffic, but it would still provide the only US-based competition to Hawaiian. So give ’em one. With at least four slots, this should give Delta the ability to shut its Narita station.

For American, I like the one for Vegas since it opens up a new city, and I think giving one to Dallas/Fort Worth makes sense as well. The other DFW and the LA one? Those aren’t going to bring much to the table.

As for United, I would think Chicago, Houston, Newark, and Washington/Dulles would all be fine choices. LA has a fair bit of capacity already including a flight on joint venture partner ANA, so I’d leave that out. And Guam is mostly for Japanese tourists, so it’s less important from a US perspective.

Hawaiian’s application is the least compelling, but if Delta gets 5, American 2, and United 4, then Hawaiian could get 1 and we reach the limit. That seems like a pretty good solution to me. Of course, I don’t have a say in this, so we wait.

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60 comments on “Delta Pushes to End Its Narita Hub, But Others Have a Different Plan

  1. Are those 12 slots only for USA flights? Or are other airlines competing for them as well, for flights elsewhere in the world?

    1. @Pally Boy – To my understanding, these slots opened up due to air space restrictions being loosened by a nearby US Air(?) base. With less restricted air space, Japan is giving the US more slots at Haneda. So these slots are only open to US airlines. Hope that helps!

      1. There is no connection to any US military restrictions. This is part of Japan’s stated goal of shifting premium international service to HND while turning NRT into a low cost carrier airport. HND is one of the busiest airports in the world and the incremental addition of international service – which also involves other countries with air service to Japan – is due to expanded infrastructure at HND.

        And there are precisely 12 round trips available for each of US and Japanese airlines for service between the US and Japan.

  2. Great time at Dorkfest at DFW yesterday. Hope you will do it again. Daughter works for AA and I am retired DL. Thanks again.

  3. NRT is only 12km further from Tokyo than ICN is from Seoul (48km vs 60km). I know Godzilla is in the way but the distance from city center is exaggerated IMO. We don’t ever hear about hand wringing in Korea over the location of ICN but that’s a world class airport. NRT not so much. I find the whole discussion amusing and tantamount to the fact that NRT is basically an antiquated 1970’s airport that nobody wants to be at. HND is no better but at least it’s close to something.

    1. A – Yes, but you also need to look beyond the map. Yokohama is a huge population center that is south of Tokyo, and Narita is hugely inconvenient for them. So it matters where the population centers are.

      Still, if Gimpo had long haul flights, people would choose that over Incheon as well. It’s just not an option.

      1. and the US has full Open Skies with S. Korea including unlimited 5th freedom authority to countries that also allow 5th freedom with US carriers. it just all happens to be from ICN.

        S. Korea like most countries has not created a façade of Open Skies where one does not exist. If Gimpo were open to transpacific flights, US carriers could fly them alongside the Korean airlines.

    2. Check google maps for yourself – Narita really is 67km to Tokyo station while Haneda is 17.
      The reason that this same argument isn’t an issue in Seoul is simply because they don’t allow any US – Gimpo flights at all. Before Haneda was opened to US flights, everyone was happy with Narita as it’s actually a very good airport (I prefer it to ICN) other than it’s location

  4. But will the DoT issue slots outside the specified priorities the airlines requested? AA put Vegas as its 4th choice, after all the others. Giving it that but not the second DFW and LAX frequencies would be an interesting play.

    I could see DL getting the first 4 but not HNL slots. AA gets a DFW and LAX. UA gets its mix of growth and shifting slots for 3 or 4 airports. HA gets the couple remaining for HNL growth.

    1. PaxEx – Well, I did say this is what I’d do and not what the feds will do.
      But it would be interesting if they did go out of order.

    2. I wonder if that’s why AA put LAS last. Figure the Feds might like it because it’s a new city. If it were second, they’d go that far down onAA’s list and almost certainly stop, given that both LAX requests and the second DFW are duplicative. But if the DOT wants to stay in priority order and get new LAS service, they have to give AA all four

      I think there is precedent for the DOT making out of order selections in past HND slot allocations, perhaps partly because they’re not too dumb to recognize these games.

  5. Good summary analysis of what will likely be the most significant international aviation story for US airlines in the next year.

    First, one can’t forget in this discussion that the Japanese carriers also get 12 flights/day and they don’t have to announce their intended routes before the US DOT awards flights to US carriers. They will see what the US awards and fill in their networks.

    Second, American’s JV with JAL and United’s with ANA means that both of those carrier pairs effectively operate as one airline from a marketing and financial standpoint. The US and Japan agreed to Open Skies except for to/from Haneda in order for joint ventures to be allowed and yet the biggest prize, Haneda, has been as restricted access as any WWII era bilateral. Hawaiian’s joint venture application with JAL complements its JV with AA since AA has no service on its own metal from Hawaii to Japan.
    Third, the DOT has twice given preference to Delta in awarding Haneda access because of Delta’s lack of a joint venture and it is fully expected that will happen again. There is no other country in the world with which the US has an Open Skies agreement along with restricted access to the largest city in the country.

    Fourth, Delta tried to get enough access to move its entire beyond NRT operation to HND but has clearly come to the conclusion that is not going to happen and the flights might not be economically viable anyway. Delta has said that they intend to pursue enough flights to Haneda in order to be able to leave Haneda. Delta said in previous Haneda route award applications that average fares to Narita would be below those at Haneda where service is offered to both airports from the same US cities and that is exactly what has happened according to US DOT data.

    Fifth, American’s smaller size in Tokyo than either Delta or United means they should be given preference for more awards than United but American has proposed just 3 routes to Haneda – the same number of cities they currently serve to Narita. The DOT is not likely to look favorably on a request for a 2nd daily flight to DFW since AA doesn’t fly DFW to HND today. Second daily flights in general are weaker proposals than a flight to a city which does not have existing service. American will likely get the LAS route and perhaps the second daily LAX along with a single DFW route. With those awards, American might also exit Narita although the cost for them to remain there with perhaps a single daily flight is low.

    Sixth, United has strong proposals from its hubs but also already has the strongest Tokyo network combined with ANA. While the DOT probably will see high value in many of UA’s proposals, UA’s combined size with ANA will shift preference for the number of flights to other carriers.
    Seventh, Hawaiian’s proposal for multiple Honolulu flights adds little value and is negatively compounded by their pending JV with JAL. They might not end up with more than one more flight. Also, HNL is the only US city where nighttime slots at HND work. There is less value in awarding flights to HA than to mainland US carriers.

    Eighth, Delta’s proposal for all of its continental US flights will likely be awarded. With the exception of Seattle, all are unique US carrier markets to Tokyo. Delta made Seattle its first choice likely so that they will get a SEA-HND flight to challenge JAL and ANA. Despite what some believe, Delta has been a strong force in Hawaii and they will win at least one flight because they will be the only US carrier that is not part of a joint venture with a Japanese carrier. The argument that the Hawaii market is not important to US consumer interests is not valid; US carriers do not solely serve US consumers but compete vigorously for foreign passengers and the US government has never said that routes that favor US consumers have preferences over those that are more heavily US oriented. The majority of the traffic between the US and Japan, even excluding Hawaii, is Japan originating.

    What is notable about Delta’s proposals is that JFK is not included. Delta withdrew from JFK-NRT because ANA and JAL both started JFK-HND flights as Delta expected they would. Delta recognizes that the advantage United has in NYC is Asia and Delta intends to add JFK-Asia flights again – but it won’t compete on an unequal basis. Thus, there is a high likelihood that Delta will shift one of its HND flights to JFK at some point; the request that Delta made – supported by American – to be able to shift routes shows that Delta is thinking about the future state of its Japan network beyond these route awards in which Delta adds JFK which is likely one of the few remaining Japan flights Delta could possibly add.
    Ninth, while there is a great deal of talk about Delta’s likelihood of leaving Narita, few are discussing the low value Narita has to premium revenue passengers at all. With more than 30 US-Haneda flights by both US and Japanese carriers after this round of awards are implemented, the US-Narita market will not generate high value local traffic and at best will be focused on low yield connecting traffic. You can’t make the argument that Narita has no value to Delta because of the shift of flights to Haneda without also acknowledging that Narita has little value for US-Japan local traffic compared to the volume of flights at Haneda. Given that other hubs including ICN are much larger to the rest of Asia, the Japanese carriers and their US partners will be at a disadvantage to other hubs including those in S. Korea, China, and even Hong Kong.

    Finally, Delta likely will end up closing Narita but it will end up with the largest presence among US carriers at Haneda, Tokyo’s desired airport. After nearly 10 years of machinations to try to force Delta out of Narita, Delta might end up with the most privileged position at Haneda – which is where the Northwest Tokyo hub actually began. There are implications for American’s and United’s labor groups if they end up giving up large portions of their Japanese networks away to their joint venture partners and then cannot viably grow their presence in one of the world’s top markets.

    1. Tim, I don’t buy all the sob stories that DL is so disadvantaged here. Yes they don’t have a JV partner at TYO (we can rehash the last 8 years of arguments here but that’s at least partly due to NW’s failure to sign up JAL and letting AA get there) but they’ve now fixed the Asia JV issue with an excellent partnership in a neighboring country.

      That said (as a UA frequent flier and hence a “fan”) I do agree that DL should get five of the routes, purely on merit and practicality.

      DL is abandoning TYO as a hub and it’s now a Major Destination, just as Paris and Amsterdam are for UA. Therefore as DL’s TYO pax will all be O&D it makes sense that they fly to HND. Simples.

      United’s application has a lot of merit, but because of the split hub and the need to feed SE Asia connections it still needs NRT service. And withdrawing NRT service from both IAD and ORD will disadvantage UA frequent fliers connecting to SE Asia. Partner metal doesn’t give all the benefits (no lifetime miles, no economy plus, and potentially higher fares for USA-SE Asia connections). And those SE Asia routes aren’t all leisure. As I live on the west coast and invariably connect through SFO it’s not a problem for me. But if I lived in the mid west or south east I’d wanting UA’s 4 routes to be EWR, IAD, LAX and GUM. If ORD-NRT were retained and supplemented by HND (say 787-8 on both) then I’d support UA’s priority.

      AA’s application is by far the weakest and by pulling all DFW-NRT it’s ceding almost all its SE Asia JV traffic to JAL. They claim that not awarding all four frequencies puts them at a competitive disadvantage. Yet they can’t eveb fly daily to Tokyo from ORD, which to me means their competitive disadvantage is entirely of their own making.

      1. I’ll answer both of your posts here.
        It doesn’t matter whether you, me or Grandma thinks about whether Delta is disadvantaged in the US-Japan market.
        – The US has consistently required that countries with which the US has Open Skies have unlimited ability for any US airline to add service. Japan fails that test. The US-Japan Open Skies agreement should have never been signed with restrictions on Haneda access or should have been pulled as soon as Japan started opening Haneda on a piecemeal basis.
        – Japan is the ONLY country with which the US has an Open Skies agreement that restricts access to ANY airport in the largest city in the country.
        – Assuming the Japan Air and Hawaiian JV is approved – and it likely will be in time- Delta will be the ONLY US airline that does not have a joint venture with an airline in Japan. That dynamic exists in no other country in the world for US airlines operating on a nonstop basis to that country.
        – The US DOT has TWICE confirmed its stance to provide Delta with more route awards and it is fully expected they will do the same again.

        Your logic isn’t consistent regarding joint ventures. You argue below that Delta should just serve MNL via a joint venture but then argue that United should get
        an award for Chicago, a market that ANA already serves from HND. If serving a market via a joint venture is “what JVs are for” works for Delta to MNL, then the same is true for UA to Chicago or any other market where AA, UA, or HA propose a flight alongside their joint venture partner’s own metal.

        Most rational people realistically expect that Delta will get at least 5 route awards which will give them 7 flights to Haneda, making Delta the largest US carrier at HND on its own metal. Even if Delta subsequently tries to move one of their route awards to JFK and start service there, Delta will have a level of coverage that surpasses what AA or UA can offer on their own metal – and does restore something of the balance that existed before Haneda was opened.

        American and United wanted to share their Japan networks at a limited access airport with a joint venture partner and now Hawaiian wants to do the same. If they couldn’t have seen that Narita airport will no longer be viable long-term and that is certain to be the case, then it is they that should lose the opportunity to have a larger long-term presence at Haneda.

        Neither American or Delta or Hawaiian says they will maintain service in the same market if they win HND awards; only UA says that. All of them, not just Delta could easily fold up their Narita operation if they get enough presence at HND.

        The only real difference is that Delta will likely get enough access to close Narita with the amount of service they win to Hawaii as the unknown factor at this time. Even with 2 daylight flights/day to HND plus 1 at night, HA might throw in the towel at NRT and AA might do the same with 2 flights/day to DFW, regardless of what it wins in any other city.

        With average fares already 20% lower at NRT compared to HND from LAX and SFO, the increase in the number of flights at HND will push that number down much further. This round of route awards is more than enough to pull virtually all of the premium revenue from Narita to Haneda. JL, NH, and UA are kidding themselves if they think they can still operate hubs at NRT with anything other than low cost carrier configured and priced aircraft. NRT simply cannot compete with HND or ICN or HKG or PEK and Daxing for connecting traffic to Asia while each of those other airports have strong local markets.

        A few years down the road, I think there will be a lot of buyer’s remorse from JL, NH and UA about how the Japanese government handled the move from NRT to HND. A split hub arrangement in Tokyo was never going to work. The transition simply assures that Delta will end up at Haneda with the same relative strength on its own metal that it had post Narita relative to other US carriers esp. since nearly 100% of Delta’s capacity to Haneda will be for local passengers while UA and AA will be feeding NH and JL’s HND hubs. UA will likely end up smaller on its own metal than it is now while AA might not be larger or smaller, given its weakness in Asia while HA will likely be larger.

        One thing is certain. The US-Japan Open Skies agreement of the 2010-2020 timeframe has no precedent and likely no one will follow. There will be valuable lessons learned by the global aviation community in the process.

        1. Delta interlines with ANA at Haneda for domestic Japanese destinations. So not all of its traffic is Tokyo-bound.

          1. standard interline agreements are normal in the worldwide airline industry and Delta’s cooperation with JAL and ANA is on that basis. Joint ventures are not.

        2. US Open skies allows slot controls, which we use as well at JFK, the UK at LHR, etc. its a completely separate issue from Open Skies rights, if you have the slots you have all the rights of the Open Skies treaty. At HND, the US government has decided to make the more restrictive rules in its granting authorities.

          1. absolutely correct. Any U.S. airline that can acquire slots at LHR can fly there as much as they want and charge whatever they want. U.S. airlines also have joint ventures with U.K. airlines.

            Slot controls are very different from government-allocated capacity caps which is what the U.S. – Japan air service agreement has for Haneda which actually has plenty of capacity to accommodate international demand – but the Japanese government is clearly not interested in allowing unlimited access and the U.S. agreed to a plan that will ultimately result in the shift of U.S. to Japan revenues to Japanese airlines because of the loss of true Open Skies.

        3. With a huge market like Tokyo, wouldn’t JL and NH be able to make a split hub work, the way DL makes a split hub in JFK/LGA work?

          1. Delta does not fly longhaul international flights from LGA. In fact, they can’t even fly to the west coast except on Saturdays (and nobody tries).
            The closest example to a dual hub in the same city is Newark vs. JFK – but UA hubs at EWR and DL hubs at JFK. They don’t try to do the same thing from two different airports.

            and there are plenty of people in the NY/NJ area for which EWR or JFK could be equally close; that isn’t at all the case for HND vs. NRT. Like LGW, NRT is much further from the central business district and where the majority of the people in the Tokyo metro area lives.

            When you take 75% plus of the capacity at NRT and shift it HND, I can’t possibly see how anyone can realistically think that NRT will remain viable as a transpacific airport without dropping the fares dramatically – which is not the business model of AA, UA, JL or NH.

            And let’s also not forget that other countries’ airlines will be allowed to move their flights to HND so the number of international flights at NRT will drop even more than just because of the move of US-Japan flights.

            1. The counter to that is simple capacity math.

              NYC has 9 very busy runways for a 20m metro population.
              3 EWR + 2 LGA + 4 JFK

              Tokyo has 6 runways for a 38m metro population.
              2 NRT + 4 HND

              That’s 1/3 fewer runways for almost twice the population.

              By necessity, Tokyo will be keeping all of those runways very busy, even acknowledging that a lot of their domestic travel is by high-speed rail.

  6. Why the hell aren’t these put up for bid? It’s really important for DL to move their hub? Great, bid accordingly. AA wants a random LAS slot? Cool, pay up. UA wants everything? That’s fine, as long as they bid the most.

    1. They will bid on service. Which is why destination, frequency, and aircraft type have to be specified. Who would the airlines pay money to? The DOT? Just because?

      1. Companies paid billions to the FCC for parts of the radio spectrum when the FCC auctioned that off, because the value was there.

        It wouldn’t be hard to see the government having auctions to lease slots (say, for 3 or 5-year terms, whatever) in slot-constrained airports. Those slots are public goods, and arguably the public can get the best utility from them by auctioning them to whoever is willing to pay the most for them.

  7. Brett’s plan has merit and logic to it. But looking at it from the viewpoint of competitive balance among the alliances, it leaves something to be desired, in my humble (and maybe uninformed) opinion. Obviously, the wild card here is what happens with the Japanese carriers. Making the assumption (sometimes a dangerous practice) that the JAL and ANA will each get 6 slots, here’s how Brett’s math works out:

    Star: 5 current (41.67%) + 4 Brett + 6 ANA = 15 slots (41.67%)
    oneworld: 3 current (25%) + 2 Brett + 6 JAL = 11 slots (30.55%)
    Delta/Skyteam: 2 current (16.67%) + 5 Brett = 7 slots (19.44%)
    Hawaiian: 2 current (16.67%) + 1 Brett = 3 slots (8.33%)

    Star currently enjoys a significant advantage to Haneda, with 2 more slots than oneworld and almost 42% of those currently available (although one is a nightime slot to Honolulu where those apparently work well). Hawaiian’s nigh time slots apparently work well too.

    Leaving Hawaiian aside (although Delta’s filing includes it in the mix), Brett’s plan gives Star an even more significant advantage, with 4 more slots to Haneda than oneworld (although Star’s overall percentage remains the same, and oneworld’s increases slightly).

    If American gets one more slot (LAX #2 because, as the airline argues in its filing, it only has one west coast Asias gateway as opposed to 2 for United and 3 for Delta) … AND Delta gets all six of its requested slots the balance works out thus:

    Star: 5 current (41.67%) + 3 DG + 6 ANA = 14 slots (38.88%)
    oneworld: 3 current (25%) + 3 DG + 6 JAL = 11 slots (30.05%)
    Delta/Skyteam: 2 current (16.67%) + 6 DG = 8 slots (22.22%)
    Hawaiian: 2 current (16.67%) + 1 Both = 3 slots (8.33%)

    Star still has an advantage, but it can also be argued that it serves more places where Asian travel demand exists, an important consideration.

    As Delta pointed out in its filing re: route flexibility which was dismissed as part of the current proceeding, the Japanese carriers can fill in the holes its American joint venture partners have as a result of the DOT’s ruling. Delta doesn’t currently have that advantage. I’m guessing that question may be revisited once this proceeding has been finished.

    As was pointed out, what we think isn’t as important than what DOT thinks. But it’s fun to speculate.

    1. Bad typing – and a typo, to wit:

      oneworld’s break down with DG’s allotment should read: 3 current +3 new +6 JAL = 12 (not 11).
      and, of course, the word “Asias” – huh?

      1. Oops! —- I noticed more bad math. United or American would be stuck with 2 slots, not 3 to make the 12 available. Again, in the interests of balance, without any other consideration, United should get 2.

  8. Boy, if I was an AA hub, I would be pretty pissed, especially I lived in Phoenix and saw Las Vegas on AA’s list. I know AA’s other hubs, Charlotte, Miami, and Philadelphia have tiny demand Asian markets, but I am surprised that AA did not try to leverage the power of the hub/feed/exclusive nonstop to Asia to connect them to Haneda, even at less than daily service. I know Cathay has considered Miami service in the past since there are a lot of tiny Asia-Latin America markets they could service via MIA connections. Maybe most of these are served better of out of DFW.

    I agreed with Cranky’s slots except that Hawaiian gets an extra flight instead of Delta because Hawaiian is not a big three carrier and also non-aligned.

    1. Hawaiian has a joint venture application with Japan Airlines currently before the DOT and currently has an extensive commercial arrangement short of a joint venture currently in place.

      HA is aligned with a Japanese carrier, as is American and United. Delta is the only non-aligned carrier.

      And the fact that Hawaiian only serves one US city from Japan does not give them a disproportional amount of access just because of their size. Neither American or United are seeking HND access from Japan and even if HA gets just one more HND flight, it will have 2 1/2 times more service to HND alone than Delta if Delta also wins one flight.

      If there is any case for anything close to equality, it is that Delta should win both HNL-HND flights and Hawaiian should win just one more.

        1. And you are correct….it is 3X/week service IIRC and it is also using the one set of daily night slots at HND that are available to US carriers but which HA split with HNL.

          The route case here is solely for daytime flights.

          HA has one current HNL-HND daytime flight; the addition of even one more would give them two. In order for there to be a non-aligned US carrier option to HND on parity with aligned carriers, Delta should be assigned both of its requested HNL flights.

  9. We’re I the DOT, I’d prefer to hold my final decision until knowing how many slots will go to each Japanese carrier. Since the Japanese side won’t be bound to serving a particular city, they have a bit more flexibility but it’ll be important not to say, give UA too many slots and then end up seeing Tokyo give NH a disproportionate share like the last time.

    As for the actual applications, I don’t find UA or HA’s surprising. There’s no harm swinging for the fences in this case. I admit I am a bit disappointed that AA’s is so limited, but given their recent struggles in Asia it isn’t too surprising. Similarly, while it would’ve been nice to see DL take a crack at JFK or SLC again (or something really audacious like BOS), their first priority will be switching as much of the NRT flying as possible.

    1. The last time ANA received a disproportionate share due to JAL’s bankruptcy filing. This time around, since JAL is already at a disadvantage in Haneda, it’s likely the Japanese will try to at least allocate new slots equally.

      American will definitely not get both slots for DFW, and frankly i don’t see why they want both. Haneda is better suited for Japan-bound traffic, with several times more domestic connections than Narita. This is also likely to result in the loss of AA’s NRT flights from DFW. Also there is the fact that no other carrier, Japanese or American, has 2 daily flights to HND from continental USA. AA will likely receive one of the slots for DFW. American already has a daily LAX-HND flight, so they are unlikely to get another. American will likely come out with only LAS, as it is a new market. The 787-8 they’ve proposed is a good aircraft to test out the market. To sum it up, I think AA will receive one DFW slot and the LAS slot.

      Delta will likely get both slots for HNL as it is a new market for them and Hawaiian already has 11 weekly flights in the market. I think the DTW flight will not go thru, but may result in the elimination of DL’s HND route. They also already have a Nagoya flight and a NRT flight. This does not provide much benefit to anyone. The ATL route will likely go thru replacing the flight to NRT. The PDX is interesting because the NRT flight is currently 5 weekly and on a 767-300ER. DL is proposing daily to HND on a A330-200, which represents a large capacity jump, and likely eliminating the NRT route. The route will likely be approved, however the long term viability of the route is doubtful. This is also PDX’s only Asian connection, and it would make more sense to fly to NRT, where more Asian transfer options are available. I don’t think it will go through purely due to the viability issues. The SEA flight should go thru and will likely replace their NRT flight. To summarize, I think DL will get the 2 HNL slots, 1 ATL slot and 1 SEA. DL has the disadvantage of being one of the US airlines with 2 flights to HND daily already(LAX and MSP), so they will likely have a slight handicap in getting approval to HND. The fact that they are not introducing any new markets may also impact them. This general movement to HND will hurt their connection opportunities.

      United will likely get EWR due to the fact that it is the only flight being applied to the New York area and there are not American carriers competing in New York area-HND against the two Japanese. The IAD shift from NRT to HND will likely be approved due to US government traffic and the fact the market is unserved. ORD will likely be rejected as it is already served by joint venture partner ANA. GUM will likely be approved due to US government influence and Japanese tourism. HND will better serve the wider Japanese traffic. IAH will probably go through as a UA frequency to HND will complement the ANA frequency to NRT well. LAX might go thru because DL and AA already serve it and this would increase competition. I see UA getting EWR, IAD, GUM, IAH and maybe LAX.

      I see Hawaiian getting one of the three slots. It is unlikely they will receive more as they already are the dominant USA carrier in the Hawaii-Japan market. Hawaiian does not really need the additional slots either since they already have service to Sapporo and Osaka, which provide a wider Japanese traffic. DOT will also likely favor DL in the HND-HNL market, at least partially because Hawaiian already dominates the market. However Hawaiian could potentially get a second slot. Hawaiian already has 2 daily slots, with 1 daily(+4 weekly) to HND and KOA(3 weekly).

      Essentially I see AA getting one DFW slot and LAS, DL getting 2 HNL, ATL and SEA, UA getting EWR, GUM, IAH and IAD, and Hawaiian getting one HNL slot. The last slot would probably either go to UA for LAX or Hawaiian for a second HNL slot. This will give AA a total of 3 HND slots(LAX, DFW, LAS), DL a total of 6 HND slots(LAX, MSP, HNL(2), ATL, SEA), UA a total of 5-6 HND slots(SFO, EWR, IAD, IAH,GUM and maybe LAX), and Hawaiian a total of 3-4 slots(HND and KOA). I think American made very bad requests and should have tried out PHX, PHL, MIA or CLT. AA could have at least tried 4 weekly PHX and 3 weekly CLT with a 787-8 or something like that, which is fairly low risk. UA made very good requests and should get them all approved, besides ORD and maybe LAX. Delta made decent requests, however no new flights are being introduced(all being shifted), which could potentially impact their request. Hawaiian made decent requests. Long-term, it would be a good idea to try to make Lihue and Kahului into international airports too, to allow better access to other Hawaiian islands.

  10. I wonder how would Delta handle Manila and Singapore once Narita goes away. Any chances from non-stops, or will they try to rely on Korean instead?

    1. Not known but Delta is receiving 8 A330-900NEOs and 4 A350s in 2019 and 2020 so they have a significant amount of new generation widebody capacity coming online in the next 2 years – well in excess of what Delta has received in previous years and likely well in excess of what they need for 767 replacements.

      They have already requested MSP-Shanghai, might restart service to India, and will certainly grab as many flights as they can economically manage at the new Beijing/Daxing airport – but they still have room at add new flights on new generation aircraft. The 777s are getting new interiors that will include 9 abreast coach seats making them more comfortable than AA or UA’s 777s or 787s.

      They actually get higher average fares from the US mainland to Singapore than United does according to the DOT so the notion of serving it one-stop does not prevent the route from being viable. They need some Asia originating passengers based on what the current flight does but they still have full 5th freedom authority from all other airports in Japan besides Haneda.

      MNL is almost entirely local US originating now but NW served it as a tag with 5th freedom authority behind several Japanese cities – and Delta might choose to do that. And of course, KE can still round out whatever service Delta chooses to offer on its own.

      The expanded international arrivals facility at Seattle is looking like a go for 2020 which is when the NRT operation will likely end.

      So, there are options for what they will do with SIN and MNL.

      1. SQ is launching SIN-SEA. That demonstrates either a viable non stop market from a DL hub, or that SQ is scared of DL entering that market and is hence making a “pre-emptive strike”. Or both.

        Personally I reckon there’s a viable market for a SEA-SIN with connecting feed from the US, which would make a DL service far more financially viable than SQ.

        MNL would most likely be best served by using KE via ICN. That’s what JVe are for.

        1. Or, DL could shock us all with a SEA-MNL-SIN route. Not likely but the combination of Business (SIN) traffic with VFR/Tourist traffic (MNL) might be a way to keep both stations online.

          1. the irony between the whole AA/China authority and DL/HND slots music chairs hasn’t been lost – AA thinks Daxing will be the holy grail that solves all of their China route woes, and similar, DL thinks HND access will magically solve all lingering TPAC woes.


              That’s the Haneda one. you can also use search bar on top of the site to find the AA ORD-China ones.

              feel free to dig around the site yourself – it’s free and open to public, no account needed to view and download any docket items.

              and that’s the difference between taking company’s words at face value or trying to figure out what their underlying agenda might be.

              for starters (and you can see for yourself), DL’s HND submission assumed AA would bid ORD on their own metal and AA has already thrown cold water to that.

              but say the recent PVG authority bidding from DL/UA to yank it from AA, UA simply asked for the same treatment as DL – what UA didn’t do was attempting to request special preferential treatment “because DL has equity stake in MU and PVG is Skyteam fortress and thus DOT should help us restore the balance”

              same story with LHR – UA has no LHR specific JV but when’s the last time you saw them all whiny about LHR ? Or Mexico ? Or Australia (IIRC UA/NZ JV only covers US-NewZealand for now) ?

              and if u don’t think the DOT is already kinda upset to begin with, the auto backup assignment of DFW against MSP-HND should’ve been the tell tale.

        2. Philippine Airlines recently (December 2018) started a non-stop flight to JFK on an A-350 in addition to their other flights to Vancouver and LAX. So this gives ex-pats more options to get to MNL without going through the other countries.

          1. JFK-MNL is about 500 miles longer than SEA-SIN; PR’s A350s are configured with about 295 seats, just 10 less than DL currently has on its A350s. DL will also be adding Comfort+ to all of its A350s since it has decided to go with a four class product – DeltaOne, Premium Select, Comfort+, and standard Economy – so the number of seats will be reduced.

            Also, the A330-900neo seating configuration has about as many Comfort+ seats as DeltaOne and Premium Select combined so Delta is really pushing the mid-product seats on international flights and people are apparently buying them.

            PR’s JFK-MNL flight is also about the same distance as ATL-BOM should Delta decide to launch it. The A350 in the highest weight versions appears able to operate virtually every flight on Delta’s network that doesn’t also have special performance requirements such as ATL-JNB.

            The 777LR has the range to fly even LAX-SIN with full passengers in Delta’s configuration. LAX-SIN is only slightly longer than ATL-BOM which Delta has previously flown on the 777LR.

            Assuming Delta opts for the higher performance package on the A350, Delta appears to be planning to use its 777s for shorter transpacific flights while using the A350’s better fuel efficiency on longer flights.

            Remember that Delta is also building LAX and wants to have a higher profile at LAX. Some of its international growth could come from LAX with its much larger local market than SEA.
            Delta is receiving incentives from LAX to add longhaul international service – as are other airlines.

            Delta has options for how it can grow its longhaul international network. At the minimum, DL’s MNL and SIN operations are currently profitable so there is no incentive to cancel them now. If those two cities are profitable now, Delta has potential advantages in serving both of those cities nonstop from the continental US that it could leverage as it gets more and more new generation longhaul aircraft and expanded terminal facilities at LAX and SEA.

    2. MK03 – I’m not sure if Delta could reliably make Singapore nonstop from Seattle with its configuration, but that could be a possibility. I don’t think it would do well, just as Hong Kong failed to do well. The best option for Delta is to either serve with its own metal via Incheon or just with Korean.

  11. i’ve skimmed through the PDFs of all 4 official submissions at the DOT Docket site (most pages are filler timetables anyway), and from the way i’m reading it, it seems that UA was the only one who kept a positive message instead of crying the “woe is me” to DOT :

    – HA PDF, slide 28, they whine about being the smallest carrier and thus deserve preferential treatment, completely pretending their pending JV with JAL doesn’t exist.

    – DL, after failing to find a japanese partner first with JAL then with Skymark, now asks DOT to give it preferential treatment because of their own doing.

    – AA, after throwing all eggs into the LAX basket, complains that both UA and DL has 2 Pacific hubs while they only have one so they should get preferential treatment.

    UA’s app verbiage, on the other hand, recognizes the existence of strong competitive forces but doesn’t use it as an excuse to justify preferential treatment. Thank goodness there are still adults in the room.

    1. I guess you missed where UA said that it would end up with more flights than any other US airline alongside their joint venture partner unless AA receives its full request and UA receives no more than 2 routes.

      Of course you missed it because it isn’t there. UA also does little to show where NH already flies – let alone where the two have talked about NH adding service after the DOT makes the awards for US carriers.

      Part of the reason why AA, DL and HA “whine” is because they understand that the DOT’s route application process involves showing your current operations to the city/country that is the subject of the route application process.

      When replies are released later this week, it will be clear that the DOT will receive lots of “perspective” from other carriers about the size of the combined UA/NH network, both now and after a potential route award. I’m sure UA won’t be adding “yeah, they’re right” to the replies of AA, DL and HA.

      1. ehhh … dunno which PDF you’re reading. literally PDF page 11 (but paper watermark page 8) is an entire page to discuss the nature of the 3 JVs.
        or PDF page 42, charting AA/JL v. UA/NH.
        PDF page 95, listing full offering of the ANA side of JV.
        page 131, showcasing how ORD-HND harmonizes across the JV.
        page 173+174, 3 JVs side by side compare.

        if you wanna find examples of pretending JV doesn’t exist, that would be AA’s application. If one didn’t know better, just from reading AA’s filing, you’d think JAL is nothing but a regional downstream feeder operation at the HND end.

        1. thanks.. .but NONE of the charts say what I highlighted above.
          ” I guess you missed where UA said that it would end up with more flights than any other US airline alongside their joint venture partner unless AA receives its full request and UA receives no more than 2 routes.”

          regarding your post above, you do realize (or did you just ignore it) that Delta applied for MSP-PVG using frequencies that were already available before AA decided to suspend ORD-PVG and ORD-PEK?

          You do also realize that UA itself filed a route request AFTER DAL’s MSP-PVG application and also requesting that AA’s request for dormancy be denied?

          Your bias is more than a little apparent when the facts you try to present don’t line up with what is actually documented.

          And there is still a very good chance that United will end up with a smaller Tokyo operation in a few years than Delta – just because United bet on a joint venture in an airport where the Japanese government limited access.

          Cranky has loved to write about Japan. I surely hope he will do a follow-up 2-3 years down the road but I have a very strong suspicion that the hopes that United has to be part of a 2 airport hub operation in Tokyo might go up in smoke.

          There is no assurance whatsoever that Narita will continue to serve as a transpacific hub alongside HND. There is no other city in the world where two carriers operate longhaul international hubs at two different airports in the same metro area. None.

          1. “There is no other city in the world where two carriers operate longhaul international hubs at two different airports in the same metro area. None.”

            There’s also no other city in the world with a metro population of 37+ million. None. Imagine if only two airports served all of California?!

            1. I didn’t say airports. I said international longhaul airports.

              And there are precisely two where 2 pairs of US and foreign carriers operate longhaul international service from the same airport – and that is LAX and SFO.

              On a longhaul JV basis where both carriers operate to the home country of the JV, California is a two airport state.

              Even JFK and EWR don’t have the same dynamics. UA doesn’t even fly to JFK and AA and DL don’t have long haul service to EWR.

              Add in that NRT is and always will be disadvantaged geographically compared to HND, and it is really just a pipe dream to think that AA/JL and UA/NH will operate twin hubs with multiple flights to the US in Tokyo.

              oh, and the Japan-US travel market is shrinking and other hubs in Asia are larger and are part of much faster growing economies.

            2. (this is for “Tim Dunn” not Tory)

              funny how sour those grapes are, coming from the airline that tried courting first with JAL then with Skymark, then say US-Japan is going down the tubes after being out-manipulated twice at BK court musical chairs ….

              the carrier that just last summer told us how amazing their new SEA-KIX service would be …. and bidding for 6 daily flights for a market that is now portrayed as being on its way of the do-do bird.

              You’d *think* if it’s such a yucky market, DL should just sit by idly while watching 3 JVs self-immolate over a bunch of prestige HND authorities.

          2. “And there is still a very good chance that United will end up with a smaller Tokyo operation in a few years than Delta – just because United bet on a joint venture in an airport where the Japanese government limited access.”

            so you admit DL’s decisions for bidding JAL and SkyMark were dumb as hell ?

            And isn’t it funny DL folks how reminding people every 5 secs why they failed to create a JV in Japan and thus need special assistance “to right the wrong”,but when it suits their agenda, just talk about UA to Japan ? Both sides of the same coin again.

            But i’ll go easy on you today since AF-KL tensions are flaring up like no tomorrow while 9W’s bailout is now hitting new roadblocks, and when paired with further leaser repos of planes, now brings the entire survivability of 9W under question. Those 2 combined are literally the entirety of DL’s India’s plans, with no plan B insight (we’re all still waiting for the actual announcement of that non-announcement-of-BOM)

            1. What Delta achieved or not with acquisitions isn’t the issue in this route case as much as you want to try to make it.

              AF-KL and whatever mud you want to throw has nothing to do with this discussion but does show a whole lot about your motivation in this discussion.

              The ONLY issues are the value of each proposal from each US carrier to the DOT AND the size of the portfolio that each JOINT VENTURE – or Delta which has no joint venture – has at Haneda. Whether you like it or not, the DOT has REPEATEDLY said that joint venture combined access at HND has to be considered in allocating routes to HND. That reason is PRECISELY why Delta is the only US carrier that has 2 routes to HND currently.

              Whether you admit it or not, there is a very, very high likelihood that United will end up with a considerably smaller number of flights at Haneda than Delta – perhaps half the size – while Delta is able to move its entire NRT operation to HND.

              Delta argued vehemently against the Open Skies agreement that included limited access to Haneda but AA and UA jumped headlong into the agreement thinking they would end up better off.

              When United employees at HND look around and realize their company outsourced a huge amount of their flying to ANA at HND and NRT really isn’t an economically viable operation any longer, perhaps you might consider with them that this supposed US-Japan “Open Skies” and joint venture was really just a huge con game by JAL and ANA to get rid of Delta’s NRT hub AND to decimate the operations of their joint venture “partners.”

  12. This topic might well be CF’s Monday article but it is worth noting what was said here compared to the route awards.

    Delta did, in fact, end up with five new routes to Haneda, more than any other US carrier and, added to its existing two routes, gives Delta seven Haneda routes – more than any other US carrier on their own metal. All the arguments about what Delta should have achieved didn’t change the DOT’s mind from its attempt to balance size between AA, DL and UA including their existing joint ventures. Delta ends up with the most capacity that can be used for local Tokyo traffic which is the most valuable use of the HND slots. Connecting traffic including for elsewhere in Japan outside of Tokyo can be more efficiently connected over Seoul.

    United ended up with four routes even given its joint venture with ANA. By most estimations, United did better than expected. UA/NH will have the largest presence at Haneda but it should be remembered that UA cannot use 100% of the capacity on an NH flight because of labor restrictions.

    Hawaiian got one new flight which was expected by all but a few.

    American’s two new flights are underwhelming compared to AA’s size overall – but reflective of its size to Asia out of just 2 US gateways.

    American, Delta and Hawaiian all could make decisions to end service to Narita in the near future. Delta got all of its US gateways moved to Haneda while American and Hawaiian will have so little left at Narita that it will likely not be cost-effective to continue to maintain a presence at Narita.

    Delta now likely has to make a decision regarding its service to Manila and Singapore. I am betting one or both will send US carrier service nonstop from the US mainland with an own-metal tag from another city in Japan might be used as well.

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