American Airlines Launching Tokyo Haneda Service, Flights Start Selling Sunday, Here’s What You Need to Know

Back in June the DOT made its rule final that Delta would lose its Seattle – Haneda route since the airline was unwilling to operate it daily. American received the authority to fly Los Angeles – Tokyo Haneda.. which puts them into the Haneda market, against a ton of competition out of LA.

There’s already daily Los Angeles – Tokyo Haneda service from both Star Alliance member ANA and Skyteam member Delta.

American used to have one of the Haneda slots, flying from New York JFK, but they gave that up to stop the bleeding. US carriers get the worst flight times, and lose money. But American has a joint venture partner in Japan Airlines and thinks they can at least control the losses enough to make it worthwhile:

  • To have a foothold in the airport when competition there opens up, or better slot times become available.
  • To prevent Delta from having the slots

Delta was just sitting on the slots offering the legally required minimum empty flights from Seattle in hopes the slots wouldn’t be forfeit. The DOT took the slots away anyway.

Then Delta complained to the DOT that American hadn’t actually started service with the new slots. They argued American should have initiated service within 60 days. and American said that getting their own slots at Tokyo Haneda isn’t something you do overnight (although they emphasized ‘commercially viable’ slots, which isn’t necessarily the same thing) and they were working on it.

Now American has announced the start of service, and that they will be selling tickets this Sunday. While the DOT hasn’t yet ruled on Delta’s request for the slots back, that American has actually published a schedule and will be selling tickets helps them and makes it far less likely that the DOT will intervene again.

American will operate the service daily starting February 11 with a Boeing 787-8. Here’s the schedule:

    Los Angeles – Tokyo Haneda, 6:00pm – 11:00pm +1, Flight AA27
    Tokyo Haneda – Los Angeles, 1:30am – 6:20pm -1, Flight AA26

I’m not at all a fan of 9-across economy seating on a Boeing 787 (although it’s similar to 10-across on a 777, which I do not love either).

American’s 787 business class is much nicer (albeit a bit tight at the shoulders). I much like the plane overall.

The Los Angeles – Tokyo flight actually isn’t badly timed for a workday in Los Angeles, although it will preclude connections beyond Tokyo on joint venture partner JAL. The return flight at 1:30 in the morning, on the other hand, is awful. It’s even a little more awful than Delta’s and ANA’s competing flights in my view.

On the other hand, with the timing of Haneda – Los Angeles departures at least we get to confuse reservations agents with time travel since the flight arrives in Los Angeles the day before it leaves.

For those booking award travel bear in mind that connecting flights in Japan booked as part of a single award ticket must be booked in economy class, even flying a premium cabin award across the Pacific.

  • Business class awards can be booked on intra-Japan flights on a standalone basis, but not as part of a connecting itinerary.
  • Japan Airlines sells premium cabin upgrades at the airport, and there’s frequently space. Pricing is often quite reasonable (I’ve seen economy to business upgrades reported for as little as ~ US$10).

Economy awards between the US and “Asia 1” which includes Japan cost:

  • 25,000 miles each way in economy during ‘off peak’ October through April. That’s a huge window. Otherwise they’re 32,500 miles each way May through September.

  • 50,000 miles each way in business class.

  • 62,500 miles each way in first class. (American’s Los Angeles – Tokyo Haneda flight will not offer a first class cabin.

There are no fuel surcharges for flights on American or Japan Airlines. Many Japanese domestic flights do not even entail additional taxes.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Hi Gary,
    Thanks for the great news! So we could presumably start getting award tickets on Sunday? Out of curiosity how many first class awards does American usually release for flights on their first day?

  2. “While the DOT hasn’t yet ruled on Delta’s request for the slots back, that American has actually published a schedule and will be selling tickets helps them and makes it far less likely that the DOT will intervene again.”

    WHY would DOT not intervene? They did it to Delta, when Delta was following the rules, why would American be exempt from it? This is a mess that DOT has created, even taking from Delta in the first place and I wouldn’t put it past them to intervene again when some other carrier shows more amenable behavior. And who really cares what Delta’s intention was with the Seattle route, if they met the DOT criteria then why did DOT even get involved without changing the terms of the deal first? AA stole home on this one, in my opinion and if DOT is consistent with how they intervened with Delta then they should do the same here.

  3. It seems to me like this is a great choice for using SWUs. Very solid J, likely to be low-ish on loads, not a terrible ratio of Y to J.

    When this flight loads, do you know if SWUs will be confirmable on booking?

  4. @Sice I take Delta’s argument, but the DOT made more of a substantive than formalistic decision – they want the slots used, Delta refused to comply, American will actually use the slots with a published schedule. Once American is selling tickets on a daily route starting Saturday DOT will be loathe to walk away from that, even if American didn’t technically comply.

  5. @preston Systemwide upgrades are confirmable at booking if “C” (confirmed upgrade space) is available. I have no way to know whether there will be any C inventory until the schedule loads. American has been very conservative about releasing confirmable upgrade space in advance. But it does seem like a route where they won’t sell a ton of paid business class seats, and so a route where sytemwide upgrades stand a good chance to clear for Executive Platinums.

  6. I predict that American will start to reduce flights due to seasonality just as Delta did. They may not take it as far but they will come close. This is simply due to the fact that American will be under pressure of the business. This will be no different than the expected changes coming for the FF program. Now that American is one company there will be new scrutiny and pressure to perform as one company and the street will pressure American to perform or their stock will take a hit.

    If this does come to fruition then it will be interesting to see how the DOT responds because I do feel they have redefined what the original agreement was which definitely had a grey area before. I suppose it depends on how far American cuts back their schedule.

  7. Is there too much capacity on the LAX to HND? Probably so. But this as much pressure on DL’s existing LAX to HND flight than on this new AA flight. AA’s operational costs on this route are going to be lower and they have an alliance partner in Japan. Who will blink first?

  8. @vc3 – you’re exactly right. By taking the slot away from Delta all DOT has done is introduce uncertainty. No airline will be able to make any load decisions without looking over its shoulder. But I doubt DOT will be there constantly, again the inconsistencies in policy management.

    @Gary – I don’t disagree that DOT wants to see well utilized slots but to change policy on someone mid-stream is just plain dirty pool. As @vc3 said, AA will start to see unsustainable route loads and will cut back frequencies, especially in an already competitive city pair. It will be interesting to see how DOT backtracks and covers those tracks. In the end it just seems like DOT has uninformed people making these decisions, which is a huge problem and one that could haunt them.

  9. And it’s strange how DOT is favoring AA over Delta here. Delta was told of new restrictions on the slot and ended up giving it up. AA had 60 days to start service and failed to do so yet still has the slot. Who is the real victor here? And I don’t care much about the trouble in the Haneda ‘viable’ slot problems. Why does DOT even bother to have policies in place if they’re not going to follow them?

  10. Of course delta should get those slots back. Don’t those silly bureaucrats know who they are dealing with? LOL.

    Btw 3x3x3 on a VS 787-9 wasn’t bad on LHR-JFK.

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