Delta Air Lines walked away as the big winner when it comes to new access for Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. The DoT granted the “spare” slot made available during the most recent round of negotiations to the Minneapolis-St. Paul route requested by the carrier. The other four daytime slots will be kept by their current operators. American and Delta keep Los Angeles service, United keeps its San Francisco flight and Hawaiian keeps Honolulu. All five of these flights will operate as day time routes at Haneda.
In announcing the approval of the Minneapolis route the DoT focused on geographic diversity and the ability for the carrier to connect passengers over its hub. United was denied at Newark due to ANA’s joint venture operations at JFK (which do not work for connecting passengers) and American was passed over at DFW. But it is not all good news for Delta. The DoT, in awarding the route, also called attention to the carrier’s troubled history at Haneda.
In 2010, when the Department initially addressed the reintroduction of U.S. carrier services at Haneda, it recognized the public interest importance of a Northern/Midwestern hub with a substantial catchment area for central and eastern U.S. passengers that could benefit from Haneda service. It was largely on that basis that the Department selected Delta’s Detroit-Haneda service proposal. At the time of that first Haneda selection case it had not yet become evident just how severe a negative impact the nighttime Haneda slot restrictions would have on any attempt by a U.S. carrier to serve Haneda from the central or eastern United States. Delta’s unsuccessful Detroit experience helped demonstrate the extent of the problem.
However, we tentatively find that Delta’s Detroit experience did not undermine the Department’s original public interest assessment favoring the selection of a northern Midwestern hub to Haneda. Rather, it provided a basis for a reasoned assessment that, for a carrier to achieve those anticipated public interest benefits, a bilateral regime allowing for daytime slots at Haneda would first have to be established. The United States and Japan have now amended the Agreement to establish the daytime slot regime necessary to take advantage of this opportunity.
The Department tentatively believes that, in light of the new more favorable operating conditions at Haneda, Delta’s Minneapolis service proposal provides an ideal opportunity to again address the Department’s goal of providing Haneda access from a Northern/Midwestern hub city with a substantial catchment area in the Midwestern and Eastern United States.
In light of Delta’s past conduct, should our tentative decision in favor of Delta at Minneapolis be finalized, we have tentatively decided to condition the award of that authority: in the event that Delta were to significantly deviate from its Minneapolis proposal in this proceeding, Delta’s authority would automatically terminate and a backup carrier’s authority would automatically activate (we discuss our tentative selection of a backup carrier below).
In other words, the DoT is willing to accept that the slot scheduling contributed significantly to Delta’s troubles at Haneda, but it also believes the carrier has been playing games more than it should and it will be kept on a short leash for this offering. Given the focus on a Midwestern hub to get the fifth daytime slot it should not be surprising that American’s DFW application is granted the backup authority.
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The DoT filing is a tentative order; no doubt there will be protests and appeals. Assuming it holds, however, the airlines will have 90 days to begin operations. In Delta‘s case this means working quickly to secure slot times from the Japanese Aviation Authority to fly at Haneda. The Summer ’17 application deadline is in October but if Delta wants to operate in the Winter it may face some challenges getting acceptable times. When American faced similar challenges with its new LAX authority last year the DoT was willing to give it a pass until the new season schedule began.
Also worth noting that Hawaiian previously was awarded the sixth slot at Haneda, a night operation. The carrier will split its night flights between Kona and Honolulu while keeping its daily daytime operation at Honolulu, too. Given its smaller size the two slots for Hawaiian is arguably an outsized win. But it was also the only carrier that applied for the night slot, so not too surprising it was awarded.