U.S., Japan reach deal on more international flight slots at Haneda airport

Bloomberg, kyodo, JIJI

Japan and the United States agreed Thursday on the redistribution of flight slots at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, including some daytime slots, following the expansion of international take-off and landing rights at the hub in 2014.

The two governments agreed on having 12 slots a day linking Haneda airport with the U.S. from October, transport minister Keiichi Ishii told reporters in Tokyo.

Four slot pairs slated for night flights will be transferred to daytime hours, while a fifth daytime pair will be added and U.S. airlines will be allowed to continue operating one nighttime pair, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement Thursday.

The daytime flights allowed by the agreement — those arriving and departing between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. — would be the first between Haneda and the U.S. since 1978, the Embassy said.

The deal was welcomed by all U.S. and Japanese airlines serving Haneda but was strongly criticized by Delta Air Lines Inc., which operates a hub at rival Narita airport.

Haneda currently fields around 90,000 international flights a year. This figure is projected to grow to 129,000 by the time of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

To achieve this, the government is considering opening new approach and departure paths over city neighborhoods. Currently, most flights approach and depart over water.

Japan and the U.S. have been discussing granting rights for airlines from the two countries to fly from Asia’s second-busiest airport after they failed to come to an agreement when Japan distributed 31 international landing and take-off slots at Haneda two years ago.

Delta, the only major U.S. carrier without a Japanese partner, said at the time it wanted 25 slot pairs out of approximately 40 up for grabs.

Delta won two nighttime flights to Haneda in 2010, while American Airlines Group Inc. and Hawaiian Holdings Inc. each got one. Delta ceded rights for a slot it was using for a Seattle to Haneda route in 2015 to American after it failed to offer daily flights year-round.

Japan moved international flights to more-distant Narita airport in 1978 to ease overcrowding at the downtown hub. Haneda has since expanded, adding a fourth runway and opening a new international terminal in 2010, and is favored by business travelers who will pay a premium for land closer to the middle of the city.

Meanwhile, Delta said the expansion at Haneda would jeopardize its hub at Narita. “Delta is deeply disappointed with the final agreement reached today between the U.S. and Japanese government to incrementally open the Tokyo-Haneda airport,” Delta’s Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Peter Carter said in a statement.

Delta said last month it “could be forced, over time, to cut all seven of its direct flights” between the two countries if Haneda opens daytime slots for U.S.-bound flights.

“Delta is committed to doing our best to maintain the viability of our current Asian route structure and our Narita hub for as long as possible, recognizing that commercial impacts are imminent,” Carter said.

The U.S. State Department welcomed news of the deal, which was praised by All Nippon Airways Co., Japan Airlines Co., American Airlines Inc., United Airlines Inc. and Hawaiian Airlines Inc.

American and United said the convenient time slot will make Haneda an even more desirable airport for customers.

“Offering daytime service to and from the heart of Tokyo will create appealing new business and leisure travel opportunities for our global customers,” United said in a statement.

American said it expects its newly launched Los Angeles to Haneda route to take advantage of the daytime slots in the fall when the deal comes into effect. The earlier arrival times would make connecting flights more convenient for customers, it said.