I find airline politics to be pretty amusing at times. One interesting battle we saw earlier in the year was between Delta, American, and Hawaiian, regarding Delta’s Seattle to Tokyo Haneda flight.
As I explained at the time:
Japan flights are heavily slot restricted, in particular at Tokyo Haneda, which is the airport closest to central Tokyo. Previously the airport was just for regional flights, though a few years back they started issuing slots for longhaul flights, but only for late night and early morning departures and arrivals.
Delta owns the right to a Tokyo Haneda slot, which they operate out of Seattle. Only they don’t. They operate the flight the bare minimum number of times required by the DOT in order for the slot to be active. Basically they don’t actually want to operate the route, but rather just don’t want anyone else operating the route either.
So between now and the end of the March they’re operating the Seattle to Tokyo Haneda flight from February 13 through 19, and from March 29 through April 1. That’s right, a total of 11 flights. Because technically that’s the bare minimum number of flights they have to operate to keep the route.
American and Hawaiian filed complaints with the DOT over Delta “abusing” their Tokyo Haneda slot, arguing they’d utilize the slot better.
It looks like a decision has finally been made regarding this complaint. Yesterday the DOT issued their ruling regarding Delta’s Haneda slot:
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today proposed to permit Delta Air Lines to retain its authority to provide daily service between Seattle, Washington and Tokyo’s downtown Haneda Airport, but subject to additional conditions designed to ensure that Delta maintains a daily service in the Seattle market year-round.
In consideration of Delta’s recommitment to year-round daily service, DOT tentatively determined that it was in the public interest to permit Delta to retain the Seattle-Haneda route. However, 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. Additionally, 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.
So Delta gets to keep their Tokyo Haneda slot, but they have to operate daily, year-round service. Like, they literally have to schedule the flight 365 days per year. Beyond that, it would seem that if the flight has two mechanical cancellations in a week, they’d immediately lose rights to operate the route. Those are some fascinating conditions. In the past we haven’t really seen the DOT be so decisive with telling airlines how to operate their routes.
Delta gets to keep the route, but they don’t have the liberty to operate it seasonally, or 6x a week, or skip it on Thanksgiving or Christmas. And if they screw it up, American would get the rights to the the Haneda slot, which they’d use for a daily flight out of Los Angeles:
DOT selected American Airlines’ proposal to provide Los Angeles-Haneda service as a backup should Delta fail to meet its requirements in serving the Seattle market.
“Delta thanks the U.S. Department of Transportation for its tentative decision to allow the airline to continue its service between Seattle and Haneda Airport in Tokyo. After an extensive review, the DOT concluded that Delta’s Seattle-Haneda service provides the best public use of the available slot pair between the U.S. and Haneda Airport. Earlier this month, Delta resumed its nonstop service between Seattle and Haneda after a temporary seasonal suspension. Delta will operate year-round, nonstop flights between Seattle and Haneda as we continue to grow Delta’s international gateway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.”
This seems like a fair ruling on the part of the DOT. I’m actually kind of surprised how strong-armed they are with their ruling, telling Delta they have to operate the flight daily. But I also don’t blame them, given how Delta was clearly not acting within the spirit of the slot they had been granted.
How do you feel about the DOT’s ruling on Delta’s Haneda slot?