Delta has announced plans to suspend all service to its former hub at Tokyo Narita. The news demonstrates an inherent flaw in the the way slots are awarded at Tokyo Haneda.
In February 2019, 19 additional slots to Tokyo Haneda opened for U.S. carriers. The Department of Transportation was tasked with assigning those slots and instructed U.S. carriers to bid for them, listing them in order of preference.
Delta bid for six slots, including:
- Atlanta – ATL (777-200)
- Detroit – DTW (A350-900)
- Honolulu – HNL – 2x daily (767-300)
- Portland – PDX (A330-200)
- Seattle – SEA (A330-900neo)
At the time, my prediction concerning Delta:
Delta will receive two slots, one for Honolulu and one for Seattle. This is because this service change will still leave flights to Narita from both cities. Its other requests will not be prioritized since they will lead to cuts from Narita.
Instead, Delta was awarded five of six slots, all but its second HNL slot, in May.
Maybe switcheroo is unfair: Delta did not hide the fact that it would abandon Tokyo Nairta if given the chance.
Bad DOT Logic
In response to the DOT award, I wrote:
But I do question the logic of encouraging airlines to cut Narita service in order to serve Haneda. Why not encourage service to both Narita and Haneda, thereby providing more choice to customers on both sides of the Pacific and as a result, better fares?
I do acknowledge the argument that while United (ANA) and American (JAL) have strategic partners with hubs in Tokyo Narita, Delta has no such partner. Thus, with a focus on local traffic (since connecting traffic is directed via Seoul or Shanghai) it made sense to award Delta more slots.
But I did not buy that logic then and I do not buy that logic now. I cannot fault Delta for abandoning Narita…it just makes sense. But the goal for DOT slot awards should be to maximize value for customers, not convenience for airlines or a narrow set of travelers. Yes, Delta passengers will now have an easier time reaching central Tokyo. But instead of adding five new flights to Tokyo, a market that is not overrun with competition from transpacific low-cost-carriers, consumers get a net gain of zero flights when it comes to Delta. That’s not the way slots should be awarded.
It’s not like Delta is out of the woods yet. It has struggled throughout Asia, abandoning Hong Kong and soon Singapore (Delta is cutting its Narita to Singapore flight when it leaves Narita). Its former New York JFK to Tokyo service also failed. The Haneda slots will make travel to Tokyo nice for Delta travelers, but come at the expense of what should have been more competition between the USA and Japan.
> Read More: U.S. Carriers Fight For Coveted Tokyo Haneda Slots
> Read More: Why I Question The Logic Of DOT Tokyo Haneda Slot Awards