United Airlines Applies for Tokyo Haneda Slots

United Airlines Applies for Tokyo Haneda Slots

DALLAS — United Airlines (UA) has applied for additional slots to operate flights between the US and Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport (HND) after competitor Delta Air Lines (DL) relinquished its slots at Japan’s second international hub.

United is proposing operating a daily flight from Houston (IAH) and five-times-weekly flights between the Pacific island of Guam and HND. The carrier is also aiming for Hawaiian Airlines (HA) slot pairs at the airport, telling the US Department of Transportation (DOT) that HA has shown no plans to operate the slot pair it holds for flights from Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport (KOA) to HND.

Still, HA stated in a September 7 press release that it would indeed resume its service between HND and KOA next month—it has until October 1, 2023, to formally return its unused slots to the DOT or apply for a waiver if it does not plan to operate the flights.

The benefits of UA operating flights to HND include convenient, daily service between UA’s key hub at Houston, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the US where demand for flights to Tokyo is among the largest in the US, as well as providing the first-ever Guam-Haneda service, enhancing travel opportunities for tourism and business travelers flying to and from Guam.

Currently, UA destinations from HND include Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco (operated by a Boeing 777-200ER), and Washington, D.C.

Panoramic view of the satellite and east cargo area of Terminal 2 at Tokyo Haneda Airport. Photo: Maeda Akihiko, Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

New Tokyo Haneda Long-haul Flights

Tokyo Haneda is the largest and busiest airport in Japan and the second busiest airport in all of Asia. While HND is more convenient for international visitors to Tokyo, the majority of flights are domestic there, as most long-haul flights operate to Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT). However, as onemileatatime.com reports, HND has been gradually opening up slots for long-haul flights, which has generated excitement among airlines.

Japan’s second international hub is the ideal option for the majority of travelers. NRT, situated approximately 75 km away from Tokyo, is significantly farther, whereas HND, only 23 km away, is essentially a part of Tokyo’s metropolitan area, even though it is technically recognized as a separate city.

In 2019, the DOT had the opportunity to award US airlines twelve additional slots at HND, with a similar number of slots offered to Japanese carriers. These slots are meant to be allocated based on the best interest of the public, prompting airlines to make a case for why a particular route is in the public’s best interest.

These twelve slots were divided among four carriers: American Airlines (AA), DL, HA, and UA. However, there is a “use it or lose it” clause attached to these slots, meaning that if an airline does not operate a route for which it was granted a slot, the slot will be given to another airline.

Due to the pandemic, the DOT granted airlines the ability to delay launching these flights. However, this waiver is set to expire in October 2023. So far, two airlines have decided not to use their available slots. DL will not operate a daily route from Portland to HND, and we still have to see if HA will resume its route from Kona to HND.

The formal process of reallocating these slots by the DOT has not yet begun, providing an opportunity for other airlines to present their case for obtaining these HND slots.

Tokyo has the third-busiest city airport system in the world, after London and New York.

Featured image: N2352U, United Airlines, Boeing 777-300ER (B77W), SFO KSFO. Photo: Rohan Ramalingam/Airways

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