HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiian Airlines has been tentatively awarded a new flight slot at Tokyo Haneda airport.
Subject to final approval, which requires a sign-off by Japanese authorities, the award means Hawaiian can add service to the close-in Tokyo airport in time for the 2020 Olympics.
Japan agreed to give U.S. airlines a dozen new flight slots, leaving it to the U.S. Department of Transportation to decide which carriers get how many. DOT awarded one to Hawaiian, two to American Airlines, four to United Airlines and five to Delta Air Lines.
Hawaiian Airlines already has regular flights from Haneda to Honolulu and Kona. Additional flights will allow it to leverage its existing fixed costs at Haneda, and will create more connection opportunities with its codeshare partner Japan Airlines.
Haneda, the main hub for Japan domestic flights, is closer to downtown Tokyo than Narita International Airport, which Hawaiian also serves. Narita is less convenient for Japanese passengers transferring to international flights because the lengthy travel time from Haneda to Narita effectively uses up a vacation day. This has made international slots at Haneda scarce and coveted, and U.S. airlines fight hard for them.
Hawaiian was the first U.S. airline to serve Haneda, in 2010, launched service rapidly after getting approval, and has never interrupted that service, something it always mentions in its applications for slots. Delta, by contrast, has a track record of winning slots and then abandoning them.
U.S. regulators will have plenty of opportunity to be reminded of such things. Friday’s awards are tentative and the airlines will send fresh arguments seeking more slots than they got. But it’s unusual for the final awards to differ from the tentative ones.
The 2020 Olympics set off a scramble. Japan wants more Tokyo air service for the games and U.S. carriers want the business, too. But the new slots are meant to be permanent and Hawaiian executives are looking for permanent expansion to Japan service.