Japan's carriers have criticised the decision by the country's Ministry of Transport to allocate a further 74 slots to US carriers in its first slot expansion programme at Narita Airport in seven years. "This means that US carriers have almost as many slots at Narita as all the Japanese carriers combined," says Japan Airlines (JAL).

Under the "use it or lose it" deal, where carriers have until 25 October to take up their options on the new slots, All Nippon Airways (ANA) has been allocated a further 22 slots, JAL 14 and Japan Air System (JAS) seven.

Chinese, French and UK carriers have been allocated a further four slots each, Russia, 10, Philippines six, and Germany, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Hong Kong carriers a further two each.

ANA says that it will use its new slots to open routes to Chicago, San Francisco and Honolulu, while JAL will extend its summer-only flights to Honolulu and Hong Kong into year-long services as well as increasing the number of its flights to Seoul and Manila. JAS, meanwhile, will reinforce its services to Seoul to twice a day.

Nevertheless, analysts warn that the increase in slots is a two-edged sword for the domestic carriers, increasing competition among the three and forcing them to take on routes that, under the current economic climate, they will find hard to justify financially.

Source: Flight International