Delta is relatively pleased with its LAX-Tokyo Haneda daily flight, an airline executive said.
Delta Air Lines plans to keep its daily flight between Los Angeles and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, even though U.S. airlines have had difficulty filling planes destined for the airport, which is considerably closer to downtown than Narita Airport, the city’s major international gateway.
Haneda had long focused on domestic flights, but it opened to some U.S. carriers in 2010. Airlines raced to apply for a limited number of Haneda slots, with Delta winning the rights for two daily flights and American and Hawaiian each gaining one.
But the Japanese government requires these flights to arrive and depart in the overnight hours. And that has made it difficult for the U.S. carriers. Delta started with flights from Los Angeles and Detroit to Haneda. But the Detroit flight did not work and moved to Seattle in mid 2013. Meanwhile, American gave up Haneda completely, canceling a daily flight from New York on Dec. 1.
Ranjan Goswami, Delta’s vice president for Los Angeles, told me last month that the Haneda routes are challenging but that the airline can make them work. He said it is possible that the Japanese government will allow U.S. flights at more reasonable hours, which would change the economics of the operation. The current flight leaves Los Angeles at around 5 p.m. and arrives at around 10 p.m. the next day in Japan.
“People don’t want to arrive at Haneda at 10 p.m. at night,” he said. The return flight leaves Haneda at 1 a.m., which is a little better, Goswami said, because business travelers can work a full day and still make the flight.
Industry leaders are optimistic they’ll eventually get better flight times, but Goswami said the flight continues to do better as more people realize the positives of Haneda Airport, like its location.
“People have been very used to flying to Narita for a long time,” Goswami said.
Other airlines also still see value in Haneda. Both United and Hawaiian are vying for the authority once held by American. United would fly to San Francisco while Hawaiian would add Kona.
After American dropped the flight, then-CEO Tom Horton told the Dallas Morning News that is was particularly difficult route.
“If there were an opportunity to get better slot times at Haneda, we’d consider going back to it,” Horton said, according to the newspaper. “But right now, it was not a profitable flight and we couldn’t tolerate that any longer, and we fought that very hard.”