US-Japan 'Open Skies' deal has potential for Hawaii

(Image: Hawaii News Now/file)
(Image: Hawaii News Now/file)
Published: Feb. 19, 2016 at 12:34 AM HST|Updated: Feb. 19, 2016 at 5:28 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii in general, and Hawaiian Airlines in particular, could reap more visitors from new agreements between Japanese and American aviation officials.

The new Open Skies agreement, a proposed amendment to the original 2010 agreement between Japan and the United States, gives U.S. airlines a little more access to Tokyo's close-in Haneda airport.

"This agreement will provide a welcome boost to the visitor industry for Hawaii," said Sen. Mazie Hirono.

The agreement was negotiated in part at the cabinet level and no obstacles to final approval are expected.

"Adding more options into Haneda complements Japan's desire to expand international flights, supports consumers, and aligns with U.S. tourism goals," said Sen. Brian Schatz.

Right now there are only four daily flight slots allotted to U.S. carriers and all of them are on the overnight shift. The new proposal moves them to daytime and adds one more slot, for nighttime.

Hawaiian Airlines, which has one of the four slots and uses it to fly to Honolulu, welcomed the agreement and confirms it will apply for the fifth slot.

"This accord reached will mean increased traffic from Tokyo," said CEO Mark Dunkerley, "which in term creates American jobs."

A second Haneda slot would help leverage Hawaiian's fixed costs at the airport. Hawaiian has one of the four existing slots, and recently announced that in July it will begin flying from Tokyo Narita as well.

Hawaiian has applied for a second slot before. The last time it did, it proposed flying Haneda-Kona.

United uses a slot to fly Haneda to San Francisco, where it has a hub. "We look forward to providing more convenient access," United said, according to ATW Online.

American and Delta both fly Haneda to Los Angeles. "It's important for our customers to have convenient access to downtown Tokyo during the day," American President Scott Kirby said.

American just got its LAX slot after the FAA took it away from Delta, which was given several opportunities to make it work on service first to Detroit and then to Seattle. "We are deeply disappointed," said Delta Executive Vice President Peter Carter. "Haneda will remain a severely restricted airport with limited competition."

Haneda is the older of Tokyo's two main airports. Narita is newer and bigger, but it is also farther from town. Japan uses Haneda mostly for domestic flights.

Japanese visitors who fly to Hawaii sometimes catch domestic flights to Haneda, then lose a day of vacation getting from there to Narita to catch their Hawaii flights. Hawaiian's daily flight from Haneda to Honolulu has been popular.

Japan tourism ebbed as the yen weakened, making Waikiki more expensive, but Hawaii still gets thousands of arrivals every day on flights from Japan. The Japanese still make up by far the largest component of Hawaii international visitor trade.

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