Delta Air Lines gave up one of its permitted flights to Tokyo Haneda. They didn’t want to try to make Portland work to Haneda’s airport, and the Department of Transportation wouldn’t just let them assign the route to another one of their airports. So there’s a new DOT proceeding to decide who gets the slot.
With limited allowable flights into the close-in airport, those belong to the Department of Transportation to assign to airlines to operate in the ‘public interest’. They aren’t meant to be property rights of the airline. So there’s now a debate in the regulatory docket over whose proposed flight benefits the public most.
- United wants to fly Houston to Tokyo Haneda. Their joint venture partner ANA already flies this. And United would move its Tokyo Narita flight to Haneda airport – no net increase in flying to Tokyo.
- American wants to fly New York JFK to Tokyo Haneda. Their joint venture partner JAL already flies this. But it would be a net new flight from New York to Tokyo (a route American doesn’t currently serve).
United Airlines has attacked the American Airlines plan, saying that the DOT should look at connections served rather than the local market to determine consumer benefit. Now that the federal government has broken up its JetBlue partnership, American’s ability to serve connections in the New York market is far more limited. The Department of Justice handed a huge win to United and to Delta in New York by preventing American-JetBlue from becoming a large competitor with their New York duopoly.
According to United, DOT set a precedent in preferring connecting markets to Tokyo Haneda over non-stop ones in their 2019 proceeding originally awarding the routes since that was a justification for denying Las Vegas a Haneda flight.
United states the DOT should prioritize connectivity over O&D, which was a precedent set in the 2019 HND slot allocations when the DOT favored connecting hubs over American's proposed LAS-HND.
Also really gotta love whoever writes these DOT documents. Always some fun responses. pic.twitter.com/XusepwwEYi
— Ishrion Aviation (@IshrionA) November 16, 2023
This makes very little sense.
- The Department of Transportation might prefer to see local and connecting markets well-served in its initial slot allocation for Tokyo Haneda, to ensure the widest possible group of passengers had convenient access to flights there.
- Once that initial allocation happened, adding more connecting hubs doesn’t accomplish this same goal – it just siphons away some connections from existing flights. Houston connections don’t add significantly to a market that already offers Dallas, Atlanta, and Chicago connections to Tokyo Haneda.
- I’d further note that Delta wasn’t really serving connections in Portland, and that’s the route being reassigned. Delta offers Portland flying only to its own hubs, and to joint venture hub Amsterdam. Many of those hubs have their own Tokyo flights already.
United is pretty funny, suggesting American had a huge opportunity in advocating for a Philadelphia or Charlotte to Tokyo Haneda flight – because of connecting potential. Both airports appear to have fewer than 22 local passengers to Tokyo per day whereas New York to Tokyo is a significant market.
There’s certainly no controlling precedent requiring DOT to assign Haneda slots based on connections. They didn’t do that in the case of Delta’s Portland flight in their original proceeding. Doing so now would only redirect connections. And American’s proposal at least offers new service to Tokyo, which United’s does not.