The U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing to award four routes to Tokyo’s downtown Haneda Airport to American Airlines at New York, Delta Air...

The U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing to award four routes to Tokyo’s downtown Haneda Airport to American Airlines at New York, Delta Air Lines at Los Angeles and Detroit, and Hawaiian Airlines at Honolulu when the airport’s fourth runway becomes operational later this year.

Japan has begun the process of opening up Haneda to more international flights as a result of the increase in capacity and slots that the fourth runway will provide.


The new opportunities for U.S. carriers were negotiated in connection with the U.S.-Japan Open-Skies agreement concluded last December. They permit U.S. carriers to introduce a total of four daily round-trip services at Haneda. Previously, U.S. carriers serving Tokyo have been limited to using Narita Airport, which is considerably farther from the city.

In a show-cause order issued on May 7, the DOT proposed to grant one opportunity to Hawaiian for service from Honolulu, two opportunities to Delta for service from Los Angeles and from Detroit, and one opportunity to American for service from New York JFK.

Continental Airlines, Continental Micronesia and United Airlines also applied for Haneda slots, but the DOT has not awarded them to these carriers in its tentative decision. This could be because United already has a very strong presence at Narita and Continental also flies there.

The DOT’s tentative decision not to approve United’s and Continental’s applications for Haneda slots could also have something to do with the fact that Continental and United agreed on May 3 to merge, subject to receiving approval from the DOT and the U.S. Department of Justice. If the merger is approved, the merged carriers will create the largest airline in the world in terms of passengers carried ― and an airline that will have hubs at no fewer than 10 major U.S. airports.

In its proposed decision, the DOT said selecting Hawaiian Airlines, which currently does not serve Japan, would add a new competitor to the U.S.-Tokyo market.

Meanwhile, according to the DOT, Delta’s planned flight from Los Angeles would serve the largest west coast and mainland U.S. market to Tokyo.  Delta’s flight from its Detroit hub would provide Haneda access to a broad area in the central and eastern United States; and  American’s New York flight would serve the second largest mainland U.S.-Tokyo market and would also promote competition among several major airline alliances.

If the DOT makes final its proposed decision, the selected carriers would be required to begin Haneda operations by January 29, 2011.

Objections to the show-cause order are due in 10 days from May 7, and answers to objections are due seven days afterward.  After the comment period ends the DOT will issue a final decision.