Carriers blast Delta for seeking all available Haneda slots

Washington DC
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Criticism is mounting against Delta Air Lines as it seeks to gain all the slots made available at Tokyo Haneda airport through the recently concluded open skies agreement between Japan and the USA.

Terms of the deal allow for four daily slots at Haneda each for US and Japanese carriers. However, open skies is contingent on All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL) gaining anti-trust immunity with their respective US partners.

Close-in Haneda is primarily limited to domestic operations, but a new runway opening later this year will allow for expansion of long-haul international flights.

American, Continental and Continental Micronesia, Delta, United and Hawaiian Airlines have applied for the available slots, with Delta requesting that it receives all of the slots allotted to US carriers.

Delta argues that American, Continental and United should be categorised as incumbent carriers since American is seeking transpacific anti-trust immunity with its Oneworld partner Japan Airlines and Star partners Continental and United are seeking a similar arrangement with All Nippon Airways.

Delta believes anti-trust immunity will allow for creation of metal neutral joint ventures for the carriers, creating an unfair advantage for a non-immunised Delta.

"Given the entry constraints that will continue to exist at Haneda, and the large presence already enjoyed by JAL and ANA which operate hubs there, the grant of additional slots to US members of Oneworld and Star would be contrary to the competition and public interest," says Delta.

Those claims are drawing strong rebukes from the other applicants, who state Delta is simply attempting to solidify its position in Japan. Delta has a strong presence at Narita, serving the airport with 16 daily departures from the US and optimising fifth freedom rights to operate to 10 Asian destinations from Narita, American tells US regulators.

American is offering harsh criticism of Delta, stressing Delta worked feverishly to derail the open skies agreement to preserve its favoured incumbent position at Narita.

American also offers that its 7.6% US-Japan booking share is one-seventh of Delta's 52%, and highlights Delta's immunised relationship with Korean Air, which also allows Delta to enjoy an already favourable position in Asia. American stresses to US regulators that Japan and Korea are the first and third largest origin and destination markets from the US to Asia.

Continental contends Delta "should receive none of the slot pairs at Haneda since any service it offers at Haneda would simply divert traffic from its Tokyo Narita Hub and weaken its well-entrenched position there", without offering public benefits that could be enjoyed by Continental's proposed service from Newark to Haneda. Its Continental Micronesia subsidiary also is seeking rights to serve Haneda from Guam. Despite Delta having no objection to Hawaiian receiving one of two pairs of slots it has requested for Honolulu-Haneda flights, Hawaiian remains cold to Delta's overall slot request that includes service to Haneda from Honolulu, Detroit, Seattle and Los Angeles.

"It is incongruous that Delta has demanded all four slots pairs in this proceeding after it vigorously opposed the liberalisation of aviation relations between the United States and Japan, which caused these slot pairs to become available," says Hawaiian. "Yet it makes sense why Delta acted this way: it simply does not want any additional competition in the US-Tokyo market."