American Airlines filed an application this week with the US Department of Transportation for permission to offer non-stop flights Los Angeles to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.
Hawaiian Airlines filed a similar application to fly from Kona.
Normally, this news wouldn’t be a big deal. But in this case, there’s a catch. The Haneda Airport landing slot American and Hawaiian covet already have an owner — Delta Airlines.
According to the Dallas Morning News, a US-Japan bi-lateral agreement limits US airlines to just four daily round-trip flights to Haneda.
The four flights are currently operated by Delta from Seattle and Los Angeles, Hawaiian from Honolulu, and United from San Francisco.
So why are airlines fussing over Haneda when Tokyo also has Narita International Airport — another world-class facility?
Haneda is located much closer to downtown Tokyo and is the preferred destination for the first class and business travellers airlines crave.
In fact, according to Nikkei, even a single low-cost domestic route out of Haneda can generate $US19.3 million in annual revenue for an airline. The amount of cash high-priced international routes can generate is even more.
This week’s application is American’s second attempt to dislodge Delta from its Haneda slot since the airline reduced the frequency of its flights from Seattle. American and Hawaiian accuse Delta under-utilising the route by operating what they call “seasonal service.” American says its flights from LAX will offer steady service year-round.
“With only four authorised daily flights for U.S. airlines between Haneda and the United States, it is imperative that American be allowed to compete,” said American Airlines president Scott Kirby. “We are the only U.S. global network carrier without the authority to operate our own aircraft at Haneda.”
Should Delta lose its Seattle-to-Haneda slot, the airline will still have a significant presence in the Japanese capital. The Atlanta-based carrier will continue to operate its LAX-to-Haneda route, in addition to numerous flights in and out of Tokyo’s Narita International Airport.
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