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American, Delta, United go big for new Tokyo Haneda flights

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines have applied for nearly double the 12 new flights available to US carriers at Tokyo Haneda International airport.

American is seeking four flights, Delta six, Hawaiian three and United six for a total of 19 proposed flights to the close-in Tokyo airport in separate applications to the US Department of Transportation today. All of the proposed flights are expected to begin ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics that July.

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"Tokyo's one of the most popular destinations in the world and a centre for 21st century commerce," says Steve Morrissey, vice-president of regulatory and policy at Chicago-based United, speaking to media today.

US carriers already offer six daily flights to Haneda. American and United operate one each from Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively, and Delta and Hawaiian operate two each. Delta serves the airport from Los Angeles and Minneapolis/St Paul, and Hawaiian serves it from Honolulu and Kona.

The additional flights are part of a push by the Japanese government to boost international visitors to the country above 40 million annually. Japan Airlines (JAL) vice-president of global sales Steve Smith told FlightGlobal last August that the government plans to release roughly 39,000 additional frequencies at the airport ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"One of the big drivers is the Olympics in 2020, so everything is driving towards that," he said.

The DOT evaluates each proposal based on benefits to US consumers. In past proceedings, it has balanced awarded Tokyo Haneda flights across gateways in order to provide nonstop service to a variety of regions.

THE PROPOSALS

Fort Worth, Texas-based American is seeking two daily flights to Haneda from Dallas/Fort Worth, one daily flight from Las Vegas – a new international gateway for it – and one daily flight from Los Angeles. The Dallas/Fort Worth services would operate on 273-seat Boeing 777-200s, and both the Las Vegas and Los Angeles flights on 239-seat Boeing 787-8s.

The Las Vegas and Los Angeles flights would be new, while American has yet to decide if the Dallas/Fort Worth flights would be new or replace its existing service to Tokyo Narita from the airport.

Atlanta-based Delta seeks six daily flights to the Tokyo airport for, in order of preference, daily service from Seattle, Detroit, Portland (Oregon), Atlanta and twice daily from Honolulu, it says today. The Seattle service would operate with a 281-seat A330-900neo, Detroit a 306-seat Airbus A350-900, Portland a 234-seat A330-200, Atlanta a 288-seat 777-200 and Honolulu 210-seat Boeing 767-300ERs.

The proposed service represents all of the SkyTeam Alliance carriers remaining service to Tokyo Narita from the USA. Executives have spoken repeatedly in the past of wanting to move Delta's entire Tokyo operation to Haneda from Narita.

Delta was not immediately available for comment on whether it plans to end service to Narita, which it also serves from Manila and Singapore, if it receives all six of the Haneda flights it seeks.

Delta has an immuniused joint venture with Korean Air, and has been shifting connecting traffic into Asia to its partner's Seoul Incheon hub from Tokyo Narita.

Hawaiian is seeking three daily flights to Haneda from its Honolulu base operated with 278-seat A330-200s. The carrier has not made a decision on whether they would complement or replace its existing daily service to Tokyo Narita.

United is seeking six daily Haneda flights for a single frequency from Chicago O'Hare, Guam, Houston Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Newark and Washington Dulles. The Chicago, Houston, Newark and Washington flights would operate on a 276-seat 777-200, the Guam flight on a 364-seat 777-200, and the Los Angeles flight on a 318-seat 787-10.

The Star Alliance carrier would offer new service from Guam, Los Angeles and Newark to Haneda, while it would shift its existing Chicago, Houston and Washington flights to the airport from Narita.

"We think this will be a competitive route case, but we think this proposal will be head and shoulders above what others propose," says Morrissey on United's position in the proceeding.

American and United have immunised joint ventures with JAL and All Nippon Airways (ANA), respectively, which impact their case in the proceeding. Delta and Hawaiian lack Japanese partners, something the DOT has taken into account in the past in awarding Haneda frequencies.

The Japanese government will split the 12 new US-Haneda frequencies available to its carriers between ANA and JAL, which operate effectively as American and United flights in the market.

"In our view, these route cases are separate proceedings – they really are about US airlines and US customers," says Morrissey, adding that United is focused only on the six Haneda flights it seeks and not ANA's plans.

Hawaiian and JAL are seeking antitrust authority for a joint venture between Hawaii and Japan.

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