Tokyo Flight Feud Renewed as Delta Wants American's Access Back

  • Airlines spar over route to Tokyo's close-in Haneda airport
  • Delta says American hasn't filed schedules or offered tickets

Delta Air Lines Inc. wants U.S. regulators to seize American Airlines Group Inc.’s new route from Los Angeles to Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport, just months after the latter won it.

American has failed to file schedules or offer tickets for flights between the two cities, according to a regulatory document filed by Delta Thursday. Delta said this violated the government’s requirement, issued in mid-June, to start the route within 60 days. Delta ceded access to Haneda to American after a protracted fight between the two airlines.

American plans to respond to the U.S. Transportation Department regarding Delta’s claim, spokesman Matt Miller said Friday in an interview.

“We’re still working through the process to obtain slots” from the Japanese government that would allow American to fly the route, Miller said.

The two airlines have butted heads for months over rights to fly to Haneda, which many business travelers prefer to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport because of its proximity to the Japanese capital. U.S. carriers have only four slots at Haneda, that’s about 16 kilometers (10 miles) from downtown Tokyo.

American complained to the U.S. transportation department that Delta had allowed a route between Seattle and Haneda to nearly go dormant, and asked the transportation department to revoke Delta’s right to fly it.

The government allowed Delta to retain the Seattle route in March, but only if it agreed to fly every day, a condition the airline later objected to as "draconian.” Delta ceded its Seattle route over the summer after saying daily flights were not viable. American filled the void by winning approval to fly from Los Angeles.

Delta now alleges that American violated the government’s terms for the approval, and it asks the government take back the landing rights at Haneda, or “slots.” Delta’s opposition is also motivated by its own competing flights between Los Angeles and Haneda, a route it hung onto even as it gave up its Seattle departure.

“Customer demand is already being met on LAX-HND with two daily flights by other carriers,” spokeswoman Kate Modolo said, using the airports’ three-letter codes. “The slots should be returned immediately.”

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