A leaked memo from Delta’s Associate General Counsel Alexander Van der Bellen dated June 17, 2015 to the Department of Transportation announces that Delta will relinquish rights to its coveted Tokyo Haneda slot on October 1, 2015 and will only continue to offer daily service to Tokyo Haneda through the end of September. Delta then plans to return to Haneda slot used for Seattle service to the DOT to allow for reallocation to another carrier.
In the memo to the DOT, Delta mentions a number of reason why the airline is returning the time slot to the DOT
- Delta claims that Haneda is a seasonal market and without dormancy rights which were revoked under the Department in Order 2015-6-14, the route is no longer financially viable.
- Delta lacks a Japan airline partner to provide connectivity beyond Haneda to points in Japan and other countries in Asia
- Delta is under intense pressure at Haneda due to the American/JAL and United/ANA joint ventures
- Time constraint of the slots arrival and departure times
Delta’s memo to the DOT is not groundbreaking or even surprising, as the airline complains about everything that every other US airline, except Hawaiian grumbles about: bad landing and departure times. Yet, despite Delta complaints about not having a Japanese partner, a Japanese partner would hardly make a difference as the landing times used by all U.S. airlines limit onward connections beyond Tokyo Haneda. Regardless of not having a partner in Japan, any US airline operating under the current time restrictions will have to rely on Origin/Destination traffic and not connecting traffic. Furthermore, I find Delta’s complaint to be somewhat hysterical, as Delta is claiming Tokyo to be a seasonal market. Mind you Tokyo is the world’s largest metropolitan economy and has a GDP that tops 1.9 trillion dollars! There’s no way that Tokyo is a seasonal market, as business demand is extremely high. The problem is the flight timing and the overcapacity in the Tokyo market.
What will happen to the Tokyo Haneda Slot
Under the DOT ruling last March, the Haneda slot will be transferred to American Airlines to be used for service from Los Angeles. Rohan explained in details the previous DOT ruling in details and examined the application by Hawaiian and American to serve Haneda in the last spat between the airlines and the DOT for Haneda. Under the last ruling, if Delta cedes Seattle to Haneda route or operates less than daily service year round, American will be awarded the HND slot.
In American Airlines petition to the DOT, American claimed they would use a Boeing 777-200 to serve Haneda year round from Los Angeles. The plan is to shift the current flight from Narita to the downtown airport (Haneda) and adjust the departure and landing times to fit the time slot restriction for Haneda operations.
OneWorld and American Airline frequent flyers should not celebrate this as a win for the airline, as the shift to Haneda will restrict connection on OneWorld partner JAL beyond Tokyo and further restriction viable options to fly beyond Japan on AA and OneWorld Partners. This is a win for Tokyo travelers, but not for American Airline and OneWorld Southern California flyers who already have some of the most limited access to China, the rest of Asia and Transpacific flights. I personally am not happy about the transition to Haneda from Tokyo Narita and hope that American Airline will rethink this change.