Delta proposes Asia expansion from Seattle-Tacoma

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Delta Air Lines unveiled detailed plans for bulking up its network in Seattle, proposing new or expanded service next year to Shanghai, Tokyo and New York City.

The Atlanta-based SkyTeam carrier will also fuel the proposed expansion with its extensive codeshare agreement in place with Seattle-based Alaska Airlines.

Delta applied today to the US Department of Transportation for daily take-off and landing rights from Seattle-Tacoma airport to Shanghai Pu Dong and Tokyo-Haneda.

Delta already operates five flights a week from Seattle-Tacoma to Beijing, competing against Hunan Airlines on that route. But Delta would become the only carrier with access to Shanghai from Seattle-Tacoma.

The competition looks far more intense for Delta's application for access to the Tokyo market. Delta already serves Tokya-Narita daily from Seattle-Tacoma, with United Airlines and All Nippon Airways in direct competition. As part of the Seattle expansion, Delta will upgrade service to Tokya-Narita to a 376-seat Boeing 747-400.

But no carrier today offers flights between Seattle-Tacoma and Tokyo-Haneda. The latter has primarily served Japan's domestic market, but opened an international terminal two years ago.

Tokyo-Haneda's international terminal was initially popular with US carriers, with American Airlines, Delta and United all flying to the airport. But all three services briefly dropped the airport after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck Japan. The carriers have since re-introduced service to Tokyo-Haneda. In July, Delta asked the DOT for authority to shift its Tokyo-Haneda service from Detroit to Seattle-Tacoma, prompting protests from United, American and Hawaiian Airlines.

As Delta waits for the DOT's final decision on the international routes, the carrier will also launch on 1 June 2013 a fifth daily nonstop between Seattle and New York-John F. Kennedy airport, using either a Boeing 757-200ER or 767-300ER.

Delta's planned growth in Seattle comes amidst a recent agreement between Delta and the Port of Seattle, with the latter agreeing to support bonds to refinance the airline's maintenance facility at Seattle-Tacoma.

Delta's strategy also should greatly benefit Alaska Airlines, which has an extensive codesharing agreement feeding passengers from 70 cities into Delta's international network from Seattle. Delta flies from Seattle-Tacoma to Amsterdam, Paris, Tokyo, Beijing and Osaka, Japan.