Delta waves white flag over Haneda flight slot battle

19 Jun 2015 by Clement Huang

Delta Air Lines will cancel its Seattle–Tokyo Haneda service after deciding to give up its slot at Haneda Airport.

As previously reported (see here), the US carrier faced pressure from both American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines, who argued that Delta was only operating the route 11 times during the winter months – just often enough to ensure that it is in compliance with the outlines provided by the US Department of Transportation (DOT).

Delta Air Lines B767

Both American and Hawaiian subsequently filed complaints to the DOT last year, urging the governing body to take away Delta’s Haneda slot.

Upon reviewing the case, the DOT issued its ruling to the case in March, which detailed that Delta would be allowed to keep its flight slot, on condition that the airline operated the route daily all-year round.

“Any failure by Delta to operate any Seattle-Haneda flight, year-round, in either direction, would constitute a violation of its authority,” said a DOT in a statement. “Any failure would mean the immediate loss of Delta’s authority.”

Delta business class

While Delta initially welcomed the DOT’s ruling, the airline has now admitted that flying the route on a daily basis is simply not profitable, and it is therefore forced to cancel its Seattle–Tokyo Haneda service from October 1.

In a letter to the DOT, Delta stated that: “We have determined that [operating the route] is not commercially feasible [due to the fact that] demand for the service is highly variable, peaking in the summer and declining in the winter, and we lack a Japan airline partner to provide connectivity beyond Haneda to points in Japan and other countries in Asia”.

While Delta has gone on record to state that it would prefer to develop its Seattle–Haneda service to compete with the existing American/JAL and United/ANA alliances, it will respect the original DOT ruling and return its flight slot accordingly.

American Airlines to take over Haneda flight slot

So what will happen to the Delta slot? Well, in its original ruling, the DOT designated American as the back-up authority, meaning that the US airline would be next in line to receive the lucrative slot.

American has confirmed that it will begin operating flights to Haneda in Q4, 2015 out of its base at Dallas/Fort Worth. Speaking to the Dallas Business Journal, the airline’s spokesman Matt Miller was quoted as saying: “we are excited to return to Haneda, [as this is] great news for our customers.”

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Clement Huang

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