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Delta Air Lines is making good on its long-standing threat to leave Tokyo Narita in favor of the city’s Haneda airport in what will be the biggest change to its Asia network in a decade.
The SkyTeam Alliance carrier plans to end service to Narita (NRT) and consolidate its Tokyo operations at Haneda (HND) in its summer 2020 schedule, which begins at the end of March, Delta confirmed on Thursday.
In preparation for the move, Delta will end service to Singapore (SIN) on Sept. 22, citing “financial pressure.” The airline currently serves Singapore daily via Narita with a Boeing 767-300ER aircraft.
Delta’s move to Haneda is not final yet. It is dependent on receipt of five new daytime flights the US Department of Transportation has tentatively awarded the airline, as well as securing viable slots at the Tokyo airport.
If the Haneda flight awards are finalized, Delta would serve Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DTW), Honolulu (HNL), Los Angeles (LAX), Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP), Portland (PDX) in Oregon, and Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) from the airport. All of the routes, except Los Angeles and Minneapolis, would move from Narita.
“This new service is a game-changer for Delta’s ability to offer competitive and comprehensive access to the city,” Delta says in a newsletter to employees viewed by TPG. “Haneda saves up to two hours of travel time from the airport to the city center compared to Narita.”
In addition to the added convenience, the airline plans to fly its newest wide-body aircraft, the Airbus A330-900 outfitted with Delta One suites, on flights between Seattle and Haneda.
Delta’s move to Haneda from Narita has been a long time coming. In 2010, former Delta CEO Richard Anderson said that the airline wanted to move its operation to Haneda, which is closer to central Tokyo than Narita. However, the US-Japan open skies agreement has limited US carrier access to the close-in airport since it went into force in 2010.
But US carriers have gradually gained more access to Haneda. Four night-only flights became available in 2010. These were shifted to four daytime flights and one night flight in 2016. The DOT is now in the process of awarding 12 new day flights, which will bring the total available to US airlines to 16 daytime flights and one nighttime flight to Haneda.
In addition to Delta, the DOT has tentatively awarded Haneda flights to American Airlines for service from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Los Angeles; Hawaiian Airlines for service from Honolulu that it plans to launch next March; and United Airlines for service from Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Los Angeles, Newark Liberty (EWR) and Washington Dulles (IAD).
Delta gained a hub at Narita through its 2009 merger with Northwest Airlines. The airline’s seat capacity at the airport peaked in 2011 and has shrunk every year since, according to Diio by Cirium schedule data.
“Demand patterns have changed, with more customers preferring the direct US-Asia services that are increasingly offered today,” Delta says in the employee newsletter on the pulldown of Narita.
In addition to ending Singapore service this fall, Delta will move its Manila (MNL) service from Narita to Seoul Incheon (ICN) in March 2020. Currently, Delta operates the Narita-Manila route with a 767-300ER.
Seoul has been the focus of Delta’s Asia operation since it launched a joint venture with Korean Air last year. Under the partnership, which allows the airlines to act as essentially one between the US and South Korea, Delta launched new flights to Incheon from Minneapolis/St. Paul and Korean Air new flights from Boston in April.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian called the pact, and Korean Air’s Seoul hub, the “backbone” of the airline’s Asia network at the signing of the joint venture agreement in 2017.
Korean Air will become Delta’s preferred partner to Singapore as Delta ends its own service. Passengers will continue to be able to access the city on the Korean carrier via Seoul, Delta says.
With Delta’s exit, United Airlines will be the only US carrier serving Singapore. The Star Alliance carrier offers twice daily service to the Southeast Asian city from its San Francisco (SFO) hub with Boeing 787 aircraft.
Featured image by Shutterstock.com.
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