U.S. limits Hawaiian Airlines and JAL’s planned partnership

Oct 3, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Hawaiian Airlines and Japan Airlines have big plans to work together across the Pacific, easing travel between Hawaii and Japan for passengers.

Those plans deflated a little Thursday following the U.S. Department of Transportation’s tentative ruling on the partnership. While giving Hawaiian and JAL a nod to cooperate more, the regulator did not grant them immunity to do things like coordinate fares or schedules.

Hawaiian and JAL are free to expand their codeshare agreement and to make other passenger-friendly moves, such as expanding reciprocal frequent-flyer benefits and optimizing schedules for connections both over Honolulu (HNL) and Tokyo Haneda (HND), the DOT said.

Related: Hawaiian and JAL Want to Form a Joint Venture

However, the airlines remain hamstrung by U.S. antitrust laws under the decision. This means they cannot coordinate fares or jointly schedule flights in markets where they overlap, like between Honolulu and Tokyo Narita (NRT).

Immunity “is not necessary for [Hawaiian and JAL] to deliver substantial new [public] benefits,” wrote Joel Szabat, assistant secretary of aviation and international affairs at the DOT, in the tentative finding.

Szabat cited, among other things, Hawaiian’s IT systems that have “limited capability to allow for seamless ticketing and reservations with partners.” The airline could have a difficult time implementing an immunized pact with JAL without a more robust technology platform, he added.

“The tentative decision… overlooks the importance of antitrust immunity that major global airline alliances already enjoy, harming a small U.S. carrier like Hawaiian by preventing it from being able to compete on equal footing and offer more competitive choices to travelers between Hawaii, Japan and beyond,” said Hawaiian in a statement. The airline added that they plan to emphasize the benefits of immunity in their response.

Brent Overbeek, vice-president of revenue management and network planning at the airline, told TPG in September that Hawaiian was excited to move forward with its proposed JAL partnership. The tie up would allow the U.S. carrier more access to Japan, particularly domestic points that it does not serve, to expand its footprint in the large market.

Related: Hawaiian Airlines wants to be bigger in Japan with JAL partnership

“So much of [domestic] Japan flying is concentrated in Haneda, having access to that is really, really important to us,” he told attendees at the World Routes conference in Australia.

Hawaii is the top destination for Japanese visitors to the U.S. The islands saw 1.6 million Japanese visitors in 2018, a number second only to Americans, according to the state’s department of tourism.

Hawaiian is set to begin a third daily flight to Haneda in March. The new frequency will be timed to provide better connections to JAL’s domestic flights from the airport, Overbeek said.

Hawaiian and others have 30 days to respond to the DOT’s preliminary decision, after which the regulator can either revise it or issue a final ruling.

Featured image by Getty Images.

Related: Get the latest airline news delivered right to your in-box with the TPG newsletter


Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.