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New U.S. Flights to Tokyo's Haneda Airport on the Anvil

Maharathi Basu

U.S. airlines have been witnessing solid top-line growth for quite some time, courtesy of robust passenger revenues. Furthermore, these carriers have been eyeing slots at Tokyo's Haneda Airport in a bid to attract additional traffic and bolster revenues.

With the summer Olympics Games to be held in Tokyo next year, the routes are likely to invite substantial traffic. To this end, in February 2019, leading carriers like American Airlines AAL, Delta Air Lines DAL, Hawaiian Holdings HA, the parent company of Hawaiian Airlines, and United Continental Holdings UAL had sought approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to operate more flights at Haneda Airport.

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Notably, the additional slots at Haneda became available after delegations from the United States and Japan tentatively agreed to amend the aviation agreement between them in January. According to the revised agreement, U.S. carriers can operate up to 12 additional flights connecting U.S. cities to Haneda.

Tentative Approval Granted

Last week, U.S. airlines received encouraging tidings pertaining to the launch of additional flights to Haneda Airport after the DOT???s provisional approval to their request. ??Notably, the Haneda Airport is deemed to be more convenient compared with Tokyo???s two international airports as it is nearer to downtown Tokyo than Narita International Airport. In fact, Haneda Airport is often preferred by passengers, particularly business travelers, owing to its suitable location.

Per the preliminary approval from DOT, Delta can operate flights to Tokyo's Haneda Airport from Atlanta, Seattle, Detroit, Portland and Honolulu. The Atlanta, GA-based carrier already operates flights connecting Haneda Airport to Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Also, American Airlines has received provisional approval to launch daily flights connecting Haneda Airport and Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) in addition to a second daily flight to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Notably, the current flight connecting Haneda Airport and Los Angeles has been operational since 2016.

Hawaiian Airlines, which has been serving Haneda since 2010, has been tentatively granted approval to start a new flight connecting Honolulu and Haneda Airport. Hawaiian Airlines, which has a code sharing agreement with Japan Airlines, is reportedly the first U.S. carrier to serve Haneda Airport.

The remaining four slots have been tentatively awarded to United Continental. This Chicago-based carrier has won preliminary approval to operate flights to Haneda Airport from its hubs at Newark Liberty International Airport, Chicago O'Hare International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport and LAX.

However, with only 12 slots available, some routes that were applied for did not get tentative approval. For example, United Continental had sought approval to start flights connecting Haneda Airport to Houston and Guam as well. However, those proposals were rejected by the DOT.

Following the tentative approvals, focus has now shifted to the final decision from the DOT, which is expected in the next few weeks. Once the final approval comes, flights to Tokyo's preferred international airport are expected to be operational by the summer of 2020. As it is, airlines always attract significant traffic during the summer season. The Tokyo Olympic Games is an added bonanza for U.S. carriers.

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