US-Japan Agreement Threatens Direct Flights From MSP To Tokyo
Nonstop flights between the Twin Cities and Tokyo are threatened after the United States and Japan approved an amendment to their Open Skies agreement.
The bilateral agreement approved five daytime flights to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. Delta Air Lines, which currently runs MSP’s nonstop flight to Tokyo, has maintained that opening up slots at Haneda would make flights to its Narita Airport hub unprofitable.
Flights to Haneda have been limited largely to Japanese and Asian regional carriers, though a previous agreement had opened four nighttime slots to American flights, which largely proved unpopular.
Representatives and government officials, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar have been pressing the U.S. government to make sure the agreement doesn’t threaten MSP’s flights.
Delta believes the flight could become unprofitable because Haneda flights could siphon off destination customers who like its proximity of about 14 miles from the heart of Tokyo. Narita is more than 40 miles out, and therefore would have less appeal to everyone except those connecting to flights elsewhere. The company had hoped that any agreement would permit more flights so the company could shift its hub.
“Delta is deeply disappionted with the final agreement reached today betweent the U.S. and Japanese governments to incrementally open the Tokyo-Haneda airport,” Delta chief legal officer Peter Carter said in a statement. “Delta is committed to doing our best to maintain the viability of our current Asian route structure and our Tokyo-Narita hub for as long as possible.”
Carter added, however, that change is “imminent” and hinted at cuts and route adjustments.
The Metropolitan Airports Commission, which runs Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, expressed concern and pressed Delta to find a way to maintain its Tokyo route.
“We are disappointed the agreement did not address competitive issues that could ultimately imperil Minnesota’s only direct service to Asia,” Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman Patrick Hogan said. “Our hope is that Delta Air Lines can find a way to maintain the financial integrity of its hub at Narita Airport and continue to offer direct service to Japan from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.”
Minnesota has had direct flights to Tokyo since 1947 when Northwest Airlines started Northwest Orient flights.
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