For over a year, a battle among American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Hawaiian Airlines has been fought over who should receive access to Tokyo’s Haneda airport. Delta had been serving Haneda with nonstop service from Seattle, though after discovering that Delta had cut flights to the minimum required, American and Hawaiian petitioned the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) to revoke Delta’s slot at Haneda and allow service from either Los Angeles or Kona, Hawaii.
American previously served Tokyo Haneda via their New York/JFK hub, though the service was terminated after 18 months. Virasb Vahidi, American’s former Chief Commerical Officer, offered this statement in the Oct. 16, 2013 employee newsletter.
In addition, we will end American’s service from New York/JFK to Tokyo/Haneda, with the last eastbound flight on Dec. 1, 2013. This is a route we worked hard to secure as part of the 2010 Open Skies agreement between the United States and Japan. While we are disappointed to end this route, our Tokyo/Haneda flight has been quite unprofitable, largely because we are allowed to operate only during severely restricted hours, limiting our customers’ options for connecting flights to and from other Asian markets. Our decision to finally cancel the service followed multiple unsuccessful attempts to persuade the U.S. and Japanese governments to reach an agreement to eliminate all schedule constraints at Tokyo/Haneda.
Hawaiian began daily non-stop service from Honolulu to Haneda in November 2010 with their Airbus A330-200 aircraft. In 2012, seeking to fill the hole that was left when Japan Airlines ended service in 2010, Hawaiian submitted an application with the DoT to begin nonstop service from Kona to Haneda, though their application was denied.
In the beginning of the year, Hawaiian submitted yet another application to begin service from Kona to Haneda, though it too was denied, with Delta being allowed to keep their nonstop from Seattle and American being chosen as the backup carrier if Delta breached the terms of their agreement. Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian’s President and CEO had this to say:
Kona continues to be a top destination for Japanese travelers, and we are more certain than ever that direct service to West Hawai’i is the highest and best use for the scarce Haneda slots that are at stake here…This route would provide unmatched public benefit by improving U.S. exports, boosting spending and economic growth within the United States and increasing U.S. jobs.
Delta Air Lines
Despite barely operating service between Seattle and Haneda during the winter, DoT ruled in March that Delta could keep the rights to their Haneda route, provided they agreed to the following conditions. (bolding mine)
In consideration of Delta’s recommitment to year-round daily service, DOT tentatively determined that it was in the public interest to permit Delta to retain the Seattle-Haneda route. However, any failure by Delta (absent DOT authorization) to operate any Seattle-Haneda flight, year-round, in either direction, would constitute a violation of its authority. Additionally, any failure by Delta (absent DOT authorization) to perform Seattle-Haneda service on two days of any seven-day period would mean the immediate loss of Delta’s authority.
In June, Delta announced plans to discontinue service from Seattle-Haneda, citing poor flight loads in the winter and lack of a Japanese airline partner to allow passengers to connect onward from Haneda. Their plan was to discontinue service as of September 30th, returning the slot to DoT on October 1st.
American Airlines, Los Angeles – Tokyo Haneda
Though several months after Delta agreed to return the Haneda slot to DoT, American finally announced that service to Haneda would begin on Thursday, February 11, 2016. Andrew Nocella, American Chief Marketing Officer, had this to say:
It’s important for our customers to have direct access to Tokyo Haneda, and we’ll be proud to serve this key airport from Los Angeles..This new flight is a fantastic addition to our growing network to Asia and a great complement to our existing service to Tokyo Narita.”
American currently offers daily non-stop service from Los Angeles to Tokyo/Narita with the Boeing 777-200ER, though many had predicted that the Narita flight would be dropped in favor of Haneda. Based on Nocella’s comment, I’d be inclined to think that the company will keep both flights, perhaps downgauging LAX-NRT to a Boeing 787-8, though we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Flight times to Haneda are as follows:
Departs LAX at 6 p.m.
Arrives at HND at 11 p.m. the following day
Departs HND at 1:30 a.m.
Arrives at LAX at 6:20 p.m.
The flights will be operated with American’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, offering 28 180º lie-flat seats in Business Class.
The 787 also offers 48 Main Cabin Extra seats and 150 Main Cabin seats.
The aircraft is equipped with satellite Wi-Fi to keep customers connected while traveling internationally. Every seat features HD Panasonic touchscreen monitors with a variety of entertainment options, as well as universal AC power outlets and a USB jack.
I am very interested to see the numbers from American’s flight one year from now. Their flight from New York lasted less than two years before being canned due to the route loosing money and being stuck with poor flight times. The new service from Los Angeles has a similar arrival time, so time will tell if this route will be a winner.
Flights to Haneda will be bookable beginning Sunday, November 8th.