The US Department of Transportation (DOT) said it will allow Delta Air Lines to retain rights to a Seattle-Tokyo Haneda slot pair, but warned it will reallocate the slot pair to American Airlines if Delta fails to operate the route daily year-round.
In a tentative ruling, DOT decided to keep the disputed slot pair with Delta instead of moving it to American or Hawaiian Airlines, which had both asked for the slot pair, arguing that Delta was squandering it by not operating it regularly over the winter. Delta is now required to operate the route daily and will automatically forfeit the route authority if it twice fails to operate the route in any seven-day period. “Any failure by Delta (absent DOT authorization) to perform Seattle-Haneda service on two days of any seven-day period would mean the immediate loss of Delta’s authority,” DOT said in a statement.
Haneda, which is popular with business passengers because of its close-in access to Tokyo, started accepting international flights in 2010. US airlines are allowed to operate four daily round-trip flights to/from Haneda. Delta operates Los Angeles-Haneda service, United Airlines operates San Francisco-Haneda service and Hawaiian Airlines operates Honolulu-Haneda flights. Delta also operates Seattle-Haneda service, but, according to DOT, the carrier operated the service “for approximately only one week every 90 days between October 2014 and late March 2015.”
In the tentative ruling, DOT stated, “On too many days this past winter season, Delta provided no Seattle-Haneda service whatsoever. Delta’s virtual abandonment of the route … severely undercut the public interest basis” for awarding Delta the authority in 2013.
American wanted to use the route to operate Los Angeles-Haneda Boeing 777-200 flights while Hawaiian wanted the authority to operate Kona-Haneda Airbus A330-200 flights. DOT said Delta has made a “recommitment to year-round daily service” on the Seattle-Haneda route, leading the department to determine “it was in the public interest to permit Delta to retain the Seattle-Haneda route.” But DOT added, “Any failure by Delta (absent DOT authorization) to operate any Seattle-Haneda flight, year-round, in either direction, would constitute a violation of its authority.”
DOT said it has selected American’s Los Angeles-Haneda service proposal “as a backup should Delta fail to meet its requirements in serving the Seattle market.” Delta said in a statement that it had resumed Seattle-Haneda service earlier this month “after a temporary seasonal suspension” and going forward will “operate year-round, nonstop flights” on the route.
DOT said it believes Delta can “be relied upon to provide the service it now promises” despite “past conduct.”
Hawaiian president and CEO Mark Dunkerley said in a statement that DOT’s decision was “tremendously disappointing,” adding, “Sadly, by dismissing Hawaiian’s proposed Kona route … DOT has once more failed to appreciate the geography of the 50th state.” Hawaiian said DOT had decided the Kona route would merely be “additive” to the existing Honolulu-Haneda route.
“Kona and Honolulu are separate markets, separate communities and indeed are located on separate islands,” Dunkerley said, adding that DOT’s decision also revealed “a long-held institutional bias” in favor of business travelers and against leisure/tourism-oriented travelers.
Objections to DOT’s tentative decision are due by April 6.