Delta starts leveraging Northwest's Tokyo hub

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Delta Air Lines has detailed its summer 2009 international plans with an announcement of new routes, including the development of Northwest's Tokyo Narita hub.

Through the growth at Narita, Delta will access nine of Asia's top 20 markets it did not serve prior to its merger with Northwest, making Delta the largest carrier to Asia by capacity, says Glenn Hauenstein, executive vice president of network planning and revenue management.

To develop the Narita hub, one of the prizes of the Northwest Airlines system, Delta will begin service to the airport from Salt Lake City on 3 June and add a second daily frequency to Toyko on 4 May from Atlanta.

Delta also plans to launch flights from John F. Kennedy International airport to Narita on 3 June with continuing service to Ho Chi Minh City. All these services will be daily except the Salt Lake City flights, which will be five days a week.

Delta is leveraging Northwest's fleet through the new Narita flights, using a 403-seat Boeing 747-400 from the Northwest operating certificate on flights from Atlanta.

From Salt Lake City, Delta will use a Northwest Airbus A330-200, while the JFK service is on a Delta 777-200ER--replacing what had once been a Northwest 747 route. The Japan-Vietnam service will be on a 757 operated under the Northwest certificate.

The two carriers hope to operate under a single certificate within 12 to 18 months, and will add more service by then. "If you look at the equipment that we have on order, I think you'll see an ideal fit for more Narita service," says Hauenstein.

The combined Delta/Northwest will also increase connections among its US domestic hubs by replacing regional jets on routes such as Detroit-Salt Lake City. Regional jets will remain on some intra-hub flights, as hub-to-hub capacity grows 14.5% year-over-year in January.

Hauenstein reiterates Delta's "commitment to Cincinnati, in perpetuity. It's a very exciting story. We have the same level of connectivity there with 250 to 300 flights that we had with 700 flights a day."

Delta also plans to add service from New York JFK, its main hub for European service, to Gothenburg, Sweden, four days a week starting 11 June, "the largest transatlantic route now without service," says Bob Cortelyou, Delta's senior vice president for network planning.

Other new European routes Delta plans to launch this summer include JFK-Valencia, Spain on 5 June followed by flights from New York to Prague on 18 June. The carrier is also adding a second frequency on its JFK-Tel Aviv flights starting 30 June.

Delta plans to operate 757s or 767s from its operating certificate on seasonal flights between New York and Zurich beginning 8 June.

An expansion of Africa routes is also underway at Delta as its launches three weekly flights from Atlanta to Cape Town in June to replace existing flights from New York to Cape Town.

New African services include Atlanta to Luanda, Angola, twice a week, with 757-200ERs, starting 14 June, and a single weekly flight from Atlanta to Malabo, in Equatorial Guinea, starting 16 June, also with a 757-200ER.