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Posts tagged Narita


This post may seem premature and to be clear, I have no inside information from Delta or the Port of Portland. This is simply a hypothesis.

With Delta’s newly announced joint venture with Korean Air it is becoming more and more likely that the Delta hub at Tokyo’s Narita Airport will be dismantled. For me it means that a great non-stop option to Tokyo PDX-NRT, will likely go away, or at least become Portland to Seoul.

But I am with Cranky Flier on his analysis.

This may be sad for those who liked having elevated service to Tokyo, but the vast majority of people, this new Korean relationship will be far more valuable. At the same time, Delta can continue to develop its relationship with China Eastern to further penetrate the Chinese market. China will likely become the most important air market in the world over time. While there are joint venture issues since the US and China don’t have open skies yet, Delta is now incredibly well positioned with both Korean and China Eastern offering tremendous penetration. Meanwhile, for American, China has been one of the most vexing problems, so it decided to do something about it.

As nice as having a non-stop option to Tokyo is, having a one-stop option to all over Asia is even better. The current Delta connections out of Narita are varied (Manila, Singapore, Bangkok, etc.) but mean that the airline has to dedicate aircraft and crews to a hub halfway across the world. Back in say the 1970s and 80s and really even into the 90s, having a hub in Tokyo made a lot of sense for airlines. Interline agreements, joint ventures, and airline alliances did not exist so if an airline wanted to carry passengers from a hub to a far off destination they needed all of their own resources available along the way. Today that model has changed. Airlines are leveraging partnerships to get passengers to destinations where they do not themselves fly. Delta, disappointed with the lack of Tokyo-Haneda slots that have been given out, is smart to reallocate the planes that currently fly in and out of Tokyo-Narita to places where it makes more sense (read, money).

While I will be sad to see a historic route go away, I love the idea of connecting in Seoul for other places in Asia. The airport is laid out well and Korean Air has a good reputation.

The unanswered question is, will a Japanese carrier like ANA or Japan Airlines approach PDX to offer a non-stop option to Narita or Haneda. With the new partnership between Alaska Airlines and Japan Airlines, there is a case to be made that a Japan Airlines flight is a no-brainer. But my fondness of United and the Star Alliance would really love seeing an ANA 787 parked at PDX offering a non-stop to Haneda.

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.