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Delta, amid the possibility of Tokyo-Haneda airport opening 10 more slots to U.S. carriers, is pitching a fit and threatening to kill their Portland-Narita non-stop flight. This is not the first threat they have made regarding their flights to Narita, just a few weeks ago, they said that their Minneapolis-St. Paul to Narita flight would need to end. That first threat came as a surprise, but the addition of other flights that would need to come to end has not ceased.

The crux of the matter is whether or not the opening up of more Haneda slots to U.S. carriers would be detrimental to Delta’s hub at Narita and their traffic throughout the region. As quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

But Delta contends that, since United and American are partners with ANA and JAL, respectively, the deal tilts in their favor. That’s because United and American could also sell seats on the new ANA and JAL flights, enabling them to offer significantly more seats to Haneda and beyond.

I don’t doubt Delta would suffer a little due to the partnerships that American and United both have. However, is pitching a fit and essentially becoming the kid who quits the game when the score goes to the opposition really the best way to handle it? Delta seems to have a pretty good case to get a number of the slots at Haneda or special dispensation to create a mini hub there, but they would rather burn a bridge by threatening to remove a non-stop international route from cities that have few connections to Asia. Seems like bad business to me.

Haneda is a more convenient airport for travelers ending their journey in Tokyo or continuing on to other parts of Japan as there are a ton of domestic connections. With recent expansions, the number of options to other cities throughout Asia from Haneda has increased as well. The idea of Delta running a hub in Japan and expecting that to last, even without Haneda being opened up more, seems far fetched. I say call Delta’s bluff. Expand the Haneda slots and move forward. If Delta ends up getting rid of Portland-Narita, the Port of Portland should aggressively pursue ANA or Japan Airlines to fill their spot at PDX.

Just a few days ago it was was announced (speculated) that EVA Air would start service to Houston in June of 2015. On the heels of that, ANA, one of two major carriers in Japan, announced that they will start service to Houston from Tokyo-Narita starting in June of 2015.

ANA Boeing 777-300ER; JA736A@HKG;05.08.2012671eb

ANA 777-300ER By Aero Icarus

Airlineroute.net is reporting the following schedule, which matches what ANA announced in their press release:

NH174 Tokyo-Narita to Houston departing 11:15am arriving 09:30am [Daily]
NH173 Houston to Tokyo-Narita departing 11:20am arriving 03:20pm(+1 day) [Daily]

The service will start June 12, 2015.

Based on the seat distribution that ANA points out in their press release, 8 First Class, 52 Business Class, and 190 Economy Class seats, it looks like they will send the following 777-300ER configuration to Houston. Their economy class seating does have a premium economy section, but more importantly, they have 9-across in regular economy in what most would consider an odd seating arrangement, 2-4-3. This certainly does not mean that from time to time ANA won’t send one of their more denser configurations to Houston, but their schedule has a nicely fitted aircraft planned for the service.

ANA 777-300ER Configuration

The flight will more than likely use Terminal D, which at this point, really needs a makeover when it comes to lounge options and amenities for passengers. The terminal does not have a ton of food options and walking to Terminal E or C, where such options are more plentiful, is not a quick trip. There is also one lounge that is shared by Star Alliance carriers in Terminal D. It is windowless and the last time I was there it was packed to the gills. I have heard it has been expanded but have yet to see the improvements.

Given United’s recent removal of their second daily flight from Houston to Tokyo-Narita, this route announcement is a little surprising. United had trouble making money on the route using a 777-200ER, which is smaller than the plane ANA plans to use, and had trouble again when the service moved to a 787-8, an even smaller aircraft. Clearly United initially saw a need or they would not have started the second flight. So what prompted this shake up?

United and ANA are put of antitrust immunity joint venture across the Pacific. This allows them to share both revenue and risk on new routes. If one carrier thinks it can market a route better or run a route better, then the airlines discuss it and come to an agreement. In this case, I think ANA sat down with United and pointed out that the latter had dropped a number of services out of Tokyo-Narita, namely Bangkok, and that they, ANA, could do a better job of handling a second frequency to Houston while expanding the coverage in Asia. On the flip side, ANA can provide a lot of connecting traffic to United’s mid-morning departures out of IAH to places like Latin America and the southeast United States.

ANA touts this in their press release citing two route increases, Bangkok and Singapore and they include the following table pointing out southern Asia points that can reach the U.S. via Tokyo-Narita using this new service.

Asia-U.S. Network

That’s really the kicker. You can leave Singapore or Bangkok on one of the midnight flights to Tokyo and connect directly to a flight to Houston.

I have to believe that ANA feels that they can market the service better to south and southeast Asian cities better than United can, especially with United’s recent market retreat there. United simply does not have the presence it used to in Asia and if an Asian carrier can convince travelers to fly with them and share that revenue with United, I am sure United is happy to let them do it.

One tidbit not present in the press release is whether or not United will keep their Tokyo to Singapore service. The flight frequently goes out full and for flyers coming from the east coast of the U.S. it’s an easy connection. I can’t imagine United getting rid of the route, but then again, I didn’t see this ANA service to Houston as being possible, so anything could happen.

It is definitely great for Houston to have more international carriers coming into Terminal D. I want to see how it plays out as oil and gas prices continue to tumble. If the market in Houston contracts a little and consolidates, will all of these flights be sustainable? Only time will tell.

We have hit a bit of a conundrum when it comes to planning a birthday trip for my wife and I. We are looking to travel in March and are torn between splitting our time in Seoul, South Korea and Osaka and Kyoto, Japan, spending the entire time in Korea, spending the entire time in Japan, or going somewhere completely different. We both like the idea of a beach but know that we would both go stir crazy after about three days. Now, if there’s a beach destination that also has some city exploration close by (within a 2-3 hour flight) then we may just be sold on that.

I have gone back and forth on the different options and just need to make a decision. Any ideas or suggestions? I am open to ideas and would love to know how other folks have explored Asia. If you are asking “why Osaka?”, after a bit of reading, it is definitely a food city and I love the possibility of exploring a town by simply eating my way through it.