WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation said Tuesday it has granted three U.S. air carriers the right to launch direct flights from four U.S. cities to Tokyo’s Haneda airport, paving the way for the first regular international flights to the airport since Narita airport opened in 1978.
Hawaiian Airlines will operate flights between Honolulu and Haneda, which is closer to central Tokyo than Narita airport, from Oct. 31, its first service to Japan.
American Airlines will have flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Haneda from Jan. 20, 2011, and Delta Air Lines will operate direct flights to Haneda from Los Angeles and Detroit.
The approval is based on the open skies agreement reached in December by the Japanese and U.S. governments. The agreement allows each country’s air carriers to be granted late-night and early-morning landing and departure slots for up to four round trips daily between U.S. cities and Haneda airport, which is scheduled to open a new runway in October.
From domestic airlines, All Nippon Airways Co. plans to operate direct flights from Haneda to Los Angeles and Honolulu on Oct. 31, and Japan Airlines Corp. will fly from Haneda to San Francisco and Honolulu.
The number of passengers on domestic flights last business year fell 7.5 percent to 83.87 million due to the slack economy and the swine flu scare, the transport ministry said.
It was the third annual decline in a row.
According to preliminary data compiled by the ministry, the number of passengers who flew between Central Japan International Airport in Aichi Prefecture and Fukuoka Airport plunged 34 percent to 650,000, the sharpest decline among surveyed routes.
The second-biggest decline was on flights between Tokyo’s Haneda airport and Kansai International Airport near Osaka, with the number of passengers falling 17 percent to 1.26 million, followed by a decline of 16 percent to 730,000 on flights between Haneda and Toyama Airport.
The number of passengers on international flights fell 3 percent to 15.4 million, down for the second consecutive year.
Meanwhile, the total weight of international cargo rose 5 percent to 1.26 million tons, reflecting a recovery in trade in Asia.
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