NARITA, CHIBA PREF. – Narita International Airport may find it hard to retain its standing as a pan-Asian transport hub after Delta Air Lines Inc. decided to leave.
The U.S. airline plans to transfer all U.S.-Tokyo flights to Tokyo International Airport at Haneda in March 2020, when new routes over the city will increase capacity. TIA is locally known as Haneda airport.
The move may lead to other airlines reviewing whether to stay at Narita or shift to Haneda, which is closer to central Tokyo, industry sources said.
“It’s shocking. North America routes have been Narita’s advantage,” a municipal official said of Delta’s decision. Delta has used Narita as an Asia hub since the airport opened in 1978, including the period when it was Northwest Airlines.
The airport’s operator, Narita International Airport Corp., has been taking steps to make it more attractive to airlines, including by reducing landing fees. In 2015, it opened a terminal dedicated to low-cost carriers.
Narita is bracing for around 1,073,500 international passengers during this summer’s peak vacation period, which started Friday and ends Sunday.
Akihiko Tamura, president and CEO of Narita Airport, downplayed Delta’s withdrawal. “Some leave and others come,” he said.
But Haneda is not Narita’s only rival. It is also facing competition from Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, Beijing Capital International Airport and Singapore’s Changi Airport.