Following the DoT’s decision to reopen consideration of Delta’s slot at Haneda airport, currently served from Seattle, the filings came quickly. Hawaiian Airlines proposed service from Kona while American Airlines wants to offer flights from Los Angeles. And Delta even has increased flights a bit from Seattle in an effort to show that the slots are not truly idle.
For American the big selling point is more seats. The company is proposing service on a 777-200 with 30-50 more seats daily into Japan versus the Delta 767-300 flying from Seattle.
Of course, having the seats flying and actually filling them are two different things. This chart suggests that Delta has not had much success getting passengers to choose its Haneda flights. The load factors are much lower than many other routes which were cancelled over the years.
Delta's Seattle-Haneda load factor is Delta's lowest of long-haul flights from Seattle pic.twitter.com/AlfZc1GvAQ
— Will Horton (@winglets747) January 13, 2015
And also far lower loads than other US routes into Haneda.
So why not fold on the route?
For starters, because everyone seems to want Haneda slots. The fight for access to Tokyo’s close-in airport has been aggressive since it first became available. And all of the U.S. carriers seem inclined to believe that eventually the permitted flight times will be better. Currently the time limits on the operations make for challenging connection flow and arguably inconvenient arrival and departure times in Japan, though some passengers do like the midnight schedule. Still, should better flight times become available the incumbent carriers expect to be well positioned to take advantage of that change. So they all try to keep the slots, to keep access at Haneda. And to not lose too much money on the operations in the meantime.
There’s also the part where this is service from Seattle, Delta’s latest major battleground and the centerpiece of the company’s hopes for expanded trans-Pacific service. Giving up now would be a big loss from a PR perspective. So the company has to do what it can to keep the slot and the service while, again, not losing too much money along the way.
American previously gave up access to Haneda from JFK (and claims it had a much higher load factor when it did operate) because the time slots were not commercially viable. It is not particularly clear how this time around flights at roughly the same times are better, but that’s what American is hoping for.
Still, if you want to see some quality mud-slinging in the world of aviation competition the AA filing with the DoT is reasonably entertaining. Someone definitely had fun coming up with “Seatless in Seattle” as the header for a set of the slides.
And, while Hawaiian also applied for the slot, its application is far less “fun” than the AA one.