United Airlines’ promised double-daily service from Los Angeles to Tokyo will not materialize, with Los Angeles – Tokyo Narita flight removed from the schedule ahead of the launch of new service to Tokyo Haneda.
As United Airlines Adds New Los Angeles – Tokyo Haneda Route, Tokyo Narita Is Cut
In 2019, United Airlines announced it would add a new Los Angeles (LAX) – Tokyo Haneda (HND) service that would complement rather than replace its existing service from LAX to Tokyo Narita (NRT). Due to the pandemic and Japan’s long-term closure to foreign visitors, those plans were scrapped in 2020.
Last year, however, United again announced that it would offer service to both Narita and Haneda starting in 2023 from it Los Angeles hub (the Narita service continued through much of the pandemic).
But with the launch of the new Haneda service just over a month away, United has cut its Narita flight from the scheduled. Last week, passengers booked on UA32 or UA33 (I’ve reviewed both, you can find my UA32 review here and UA33 review here) beyond March 24, 2023 received a schedule change notification. They were re-routed via San Francisco (SFO), which offers service to both Tokyo Airports.
Passengers impacted by the schedule change have the option of rebooking at no charge on the Tokyo Haneda flight, operating as UA38/UA39 starting on March 25, 2023 (the first flight from Haneda to Los Angeles will be on March 26, 2023).
ANA will continue to operate a daily nonstop to Tokyo Narita. You can also ask United to be rebooked on this flight. However note that even though ANA and United are joint venture partners, such rebooking will be at the discretion of the reservation agent (so if you do not get the answer you want, don’t fight – just politely thank the agent, hang up, and call again).
Anecdotal evidence suggests tourism and foreign business travel has not rebounded to Japan nearly as much as originally anticipated.
Live and Let’s Fly reached out to United for confirmation of this route cut but did not receive a reply.
United will be suspending its long-time route from Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita when it launches Tokyo Haneda service late in March. If your itinerary is impacted, you have several rebooking options.
While United has not ruled out returning to Tokyo Narita, it appears current demand cannot sustain two flights per day from Los Angeles as well as two flights per day on ANA.
They’re in wait and see mode right now, we’ll get more solid guidance about this flight close to middle/end of the 3rd quarter.
UAL: Better than Pan Am. Best in the galaxy.
LAX has too much capacity to Tokyo and too much competition. In addition to all 3 US carriers and both Japanese carriers, you have SQ’s fifth freedom and Zipair as well. Even with UA’s cancellation of UA32/33, there’s still up to 11 daily flights between the two cities. Then add in JAL’s LAX-KIX and SAN-NRT, there’s up to 13 daily flights between Southern California and Japan
LA yields to Asia are tough, but UA doesn’t need to fly to both NRT and HND. Not efficient and not necessary, really. They can flow connections over NRT from other US gateways.
For connecting passengers, they can also route them onto ANA’s LAX-NRT flight as a part of their TPAC JV. LAX-HND caters much better to O&D passengers, who in general are higher yielding. LAX is also not a particularly good location for connections. Anywhere that might connect into LAX should be equally as good or better to connect over SFO (UA’s main TPAC hub), SEA (DL and AA’s main TPAC connecting hub, with LAX more for O&D for them as well), or YVR (AC has had a 6th freedom TPAC strategy out of there for a while now)
With it looking like the HND slot waivers will be extended, it would be interested to see a recap of all airlines’ updated plans for Japan overall.
DL has said on earnings call that with no slot waiver they’ll fly everything, with them they’ll run approximately 70% of the flights. They also just canceled DTW-NGO.
What is the status of slot waivers? Seems to me like they must have already issued it and that is what caused United to cut this flight for the time being.
If they didn’t issue waivers, wouldn’t that mean United is just giving up a Tokyo slot?
I think the slots just apply to the ones airlines battled over for HND. Those are the ones that have historically been “use it or lose it” and may have factored in to why UA is running HND but not NRT.
ANA announced last week that it is not bringing back JFK-NRT nonstops when it resumes a 2nd nonstop between NYC and Tokyo (10x weekly flights initially including current daily HND-JFK-HND flight) with the upcoming northern summer season schedule change at the end of March*, but that all of its Tokyo-JFK nonstops will now serve Haneda Airport when it begins to transition back to its pre-Covid19 frequencies on the Tokyo-New York route, and therefore leaving ANA’s joint venture partner, United, over at Newark Liberty International with the sole remaining Narita nonstop between the two financial capitals.
As of last check (while this was written), United continues to serve both Haneda and Narita airports from Newark during the upcoming summer, each 1x daily and each with mid-/late-morning departures to Tokyo, with both return flights departing Tokyo in the late afternoon.
Of note, however, is that United’s EWR-NRT-EWR flight is downgauged from Boeing 777s (both 200ER & 300ER operated the route) to 787-9, while EWR-HND-EWR remains 777-200ER.
*Sunday, March 26 is the schedule change date; the 2nd HND-JFK-HND nonstop is scheduled to operate 3x weekly until August 31, increasing to 2x daily September 1st. ANA’s new flight departs JFK at 2am and arrives HND 5am (next day) while the new HND flight to New York City departs at 10:55pm (along with many of ANA’s international departures to Asia and Europe), arriving JFK 10:50pm (same day).
The daily service to JFK effective March 26 is:
Depart JFK 6:15pm; Arrive HND 9:15pm (next day)
Depart HND 10:20am; Arrive JFK 10:15am (same day)
This makes me sad, I was looking forward to having both airports served via LAX. I think you are right though, I think the issue is that Japan demand just hasn’t rebounded the same way most other places did when they reopened. So hopefully that is a sign we can still see both of these routes operate in the future! At least it isn’t completely canceled for good.
Curious Matthew, as an LAX based UA flyer, which airport would you rather have service into if they’re only going to operate 1 for now? Are you glad it’s switching to HND or would you have just left NRT?
Does anyone know what the deal is with slots in Tokyo? I feel like they must have just issued another waiver last week, and I bet that is why United cut this flight. Tokyo slots are super hard to come by, and I don’t think United would just cancel this flight if that meant losing a Tokyo slot.
This flight is also on the schedule again as of October, so to me it seems like they must have issued a slot waiver until October and then United will just wait and see how demand recovers, but for now if they don’t need to operate 2x daily from LAX they aren’t going to, instead they just are going with one 787-10 instead of two 787-9s.
I would expect to see this route return whenever the slot waiver in Tokyo expires. Not sure what the details are on that but that just seems like what has to be going on here, no way they just gave away a Tokyo slot.
Is the noodle bar at the ANA lounge in HND better than the one at NRT? No missing the NRT United Club here.
United also cut EWR to KEF this summer.
I śaw that — too much competition. Glad ORD-KEF is sticking around.
They’re quietly cutting a lot of routes. ORD-DEL is also gone.
I am here in Japan now and again, from an anecdotal perspective, I can tell you that unlike Australia in the spring when they reopened, Japan is very very quiet. I was on a virtually empty TG 777 to Osaka from BKK. KIX was extremely quiet. Roads and streets are empty in comparison to pre-covid. The hotel I am at, once bustling at all hours, feels as if I am the only person here. Availability the past few weeks in F on JAL to pretty much every U.S. and European gateway has been wide open. J on ANA has also. From the reverse I talked to a hotel GM at a SE Asia property and she told me that Americans and Europeans are basically saving them right now. That Japanese and Chinese, once the top 2 visitors, are not at all returning. Maybe in the spring things will change but this is a far cry from what I witnessed when Australia reopened and the travel scene there was over the top.
Finally, though technically not mandated, mask wearing here is nearly 100%, even outside. While I realize that this has a great deal to do with the culture, it still feels as if the population is very much mentally in the throes of Covid. I am sure this discourages business travel in both ways as a result.
Fascinating observation. Thanks for sharing. Safe travels, Stuart.
I just left Japan & my impression in Sapporo at the snow festival is that local demand is very high & only token traces of COVID policy is left, including masks. Maybe 5% foreigners out of the tourists at the snow festival, and last November for my trip to the Autumn Leaves. All my flights have been pretty full to/from Japan however
I get that NRT is mostly all about connections, but assuming you can get to where you want to go through HND, what’s there to miss about NRT? I was there in Nov and it felt like a COVID time warp/hospital. It also far away from everything. HND is superior in every way.
I was just looking at booking my first flight to Japan and preferred HND over NRT for location, but NRT for convenience from IAD. With the uncertainty, are there any suggestions on how to optimize a trip in October?
Is your visit to Tokyo or will you be connecting to another city/country?
It’s mainly to Tokyo with young kids in tow.
@Kelly. I am DC based as well so will offer this one thing…IAD uses the older ANA J class and, while nice, it’s nowhere near the level of The Room on the 777’s. Also, HND is much more convenient for Tokyo (though it’s a trade off for having to make a connection). Might be worth checking ORD as a connection spot as there is often free J class available (compared to JFK). Further, it’s harder to find space on the IAD flight for J (assuming that’s your goal).
If you’re flying economy than I would def suggest the IAD flight with kids as it’s one and done. The train or “Airport Limousine” from NRT into the city is perfectly easy and efficient. If you’re tired/kids in tow and with larger bags than Taxi or Uber for a few of you is an option. It’s pricey, but when split out for 2-3 people not all that bad and better than lugging suitcases and kids through the large stations. In that case if really not wanting to spend the money on a taxi and having larger bags then Airport Limousine (Bus) is the best as it goes right to your hotel (if a major one). It’s fairly comfortable but depending on which stop you are and traffic can be two hours to your stop. From HND just take a taxi…won’t break the bank and is 20 minutes or so to most areas of the city.
Also, be sure to use the new Visit Japan Web portal to fill out all of your immigration information (including vaccination status) as it will speed up your arrival immensely. If you don’t, expect an hour or so wait when arriving versus breezing through in 10 minutes with everything done before and a QR code.
Just a few thoughts on my 3-4 times a year there from DC.
@Stuart. Thanks for local transportation ideas. Didn’t realize the bus is faster than a Tokyo to HND layover, even worst case. The kids will likely be tired and I’d rather do a connection early before they get too beat, ORD is a good choice. I’m also new to class management, clearly business is the goal through miles+points, assuming that’s a reasonable risk for 4.
Four in J is a really tough proposition to Japan. Possible, yes….likely, no. Might be that you and your husband split up between J and Y by booking two seats in each cabin…each of you getting one way with one child. Or, if on the non-stop from IAD, economy with four of you is not horrible. As a family it’s more than doable.
Matthew is the genius at this though and has a lot of personal experience with kids and award travel. Might want to use his expertise to help you construct a plan for the redemptions through his booking service. He’s really good!
Japan is a perfect family trip destination. You will all love it. Pack light to minimize bags so as to navigate easily the train stations and everything else will be easy. Been traveling to Japan for work for 25 years and can assure you it’s much easier now than in the 90’s and not at all intimidating as many think these days. Everything is very intuitive, even amidst the craziness of Tokyo.
As far as hotels, so many great redemption properties. Even the mid level properties will be better than anywhere else and your kids will love the hotels. Not sure your hotel brand pref but Hyatt has you pretty well covered in Kyoto and Tokyo (and a few other areas as well) and you will not go wrong with many.
Finally, not sure when you are going, but if during the baseball season you MUST take the family to a game here. Even if not a fan you will love the experience and the kids will be amazed. It’s my vicarious pleasure in Japan and the stadium food is the best you will ever try! Every friend I have taken has said it was truly the one experience that helped them understand Japan a bit more.
This is the slow death of Pan Am Pacific. The only reason UA, or anybody else flew to NRT was because the Japanese government limited the flights to HND, partly because of the concern of conflict with traffic from Yokota AFB.
The US Air Force finally relaxed air space restrictions in place for at least 50 years, allowing more traffic into HND. UA (and Delta, flying the legacy of Northwest) served NRT because they had a large “beyond” hub in TYO left over from post-WWII. At the time, Japan was the most desirable transpacific destination, and TYO was about as far as DC-8’s could fly from SFO or SEA.
But gradually, Japan has receded as the most valuable transpac market and planes no long can go only as far as TYO. Since neither UA nor DL need the beyond-TYO capability, being able to get in to the much closer HND is more desirable.
Additionally, for UA, thanks to their partnership with NH, they now have intra-Japan connections. 25-odd years ago, my girlfriend at the time had to fly to NRT and then take a connection of trains to get to HND to get to Hakodate.
I’m sure that given the opportunity, UA will switch all service to HND.
I flew to Japan in December and my United flights from SFO were half empty. Empty because there were very few Japanese on board. The yen is too weak for Japanese citizens to travel internationally.