DOT awards Delta Seattle-Haneda authority

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The US Department of Transportation (DOT) approved Delta Air Lines' request to operate daily nonstop flights between Seattle and Tokyo Haneda.

The approval follows two rounds of bidding by Delta, American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines for the single route authority at Haneda, after the Atlanta-based SkyTeam alliance member requested DOT approval to shift the gateway of its Detroit-Haneda flight to Seattle in June 2012.

"We would like to thank the DOTfor approval of our new service between Seattle and Haneda," says Richard Anderson, chief executive of Delta, in a statement. "Delta's new flights will significantly benefit consumers in the region as well as boost the economy and create jobs by opening new doors for commerce with Asia."

The carrier will operate the flight on 225-seat Boeing 767-300ER aircraft from 1 June.

"Only Delta's proposal would open Haneda access to a new region of the country and result in a greater number of geographic service options for the travelling public," says the DOT in its decision today.

American proposed a flight between Los Angeles and Haneda, Hawaiian between Kona and Haneda, and United between San Francisco and Haneda. American and Hawaiian dropped their proposals after a preliminary decision favouring Delta from the DOT this past November, however, the former requested that all US carriers holding a Haneda route authority be granted the flexibility to change their US gateway.

The DOT denied Fort Worth-based American's request for gateway flexibility in its final decision.

Chicago-based United maintained its request for the San Francisco-Haneda route following the preliminary decision and, in the case that Delta was awarded the authority, that the DOT grant it back-up authority for the route.

"Given the limited number of nonstop Haneda opportunities available to the travelling public, however, and the fact that American already offers daily US-flag San Francisco-Haneda service through its code share with JAL, we continue to believe that the establishment of a wholly new US gateway for nonstop Haneda service, ie, Seattle, outweighs the benefits of adding a second nonstop flight at San Francisco," says the DOT on United's request.

The agency also denied United's request for back-up authority.

The remaining three US carrier flights to Haneda are American from New York John F. Kennedy (JFK), Delta from Los Angeles and Hawaiian from Honolulu.

Delta is in the midst of an expansion of its Seattle focus city that includes new service to Los Angeles from 8 April and Shanghai Pudong from 17 June, and increased service to JFK from 1 June.