American And Hawaiian Fight Over Delta’s Sloppy Seconds

Filed Under: American, Delta

2014 was a year filled with fabulous drama and shade throwing in the airline industry, from the Battle in Seattle, to His Excellency rejecting his new toy because it had a scratch on it.

But quite possibly the biggest pre-school feud of the airline industry last year was with Delta’s Tokyo Haneda slot. The situation can best be summed up by saying that Delta had a toy they didn’t actually want to play with, but they didn’t want anyone else to be allowed to play with it either.

Delta’s Tokyo Haneda slot

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.


Other airlines are crying foul

Of course other airlines are calling Delta out on this and have filed complaints with the DOT. And that’s perfectly justifiable, in my opinion, since clearly Delta isn’t utilizing the frequency in the spirit it was intended.

Other airlines have requested to take over the route, and right now it’s down to American and Hawaiian. American wants to operate a 777 between Los Angeles and Tokyo Haneda, while Hawaiian wants to operate an A330 between Kona and Tokyo Haneda.

American’s bid for Tokyo Haneda

In addition to making their request with the DOT, American has set up a website making their case for why they should fly to Tokyo Haneda.


Now, the argument isn’t really that compelling, aside from pointing out that Delta simply isn’t using their slot… which I guess to some degree is justification enough.

They have a graphic pointing out that they’d be utilizing their route 10x as much as Delta:


And pointing out how many more connections they have in LA than Delta has in Seattle:


But here’s the part I really don’t get. Does American actually want to fly Los Angeles to Tokyo Haneda, or do they simply want to take it away from Delta?

American used to fly from New York to Tokyo Haneda, a route which they eventually cut. And they’d be going head to head with ANA on the Los Angeles to Tokyo Haneda route, and based on what I’ve seen, it doesn’t look like ANA is doing all that well on the route. At least I’d assume not based on the fact that they always have award availability on the route, and generally all fare buckets are available day of departure.

Now, chances are that American could turn a profit on the route right now if they flew it. After all, they could probably turn a profit flying between Tulsa and Bahrain given the economy and oil prices. But when the economy weakens and oil prices go up again, is the route actually sustainable?

Bottom line

Ultimately I do think Delta deserves to have the Haneda slot taken away from them. They’re clearly not doing what’s in the best interest of consumers by having the slot and under-utilizing it. At the same time, I have to wonder if other airlines want the slot because they actually think it makes sense long term, or because they just want a small victory over Delta?

What do you think?

  1. One of the big reasons – if not the biggest – ANA’s LAX-HND route isn’t doing well (if that’s indeed the case) may be that they’re using there old angled-flat business class on this route, while the LAX-NRT flight gets the much better, fully-flat business class. That’s doubly strange given the flights’ timings – the HND flights depart in the wee hours in both directions, while the LAX-NRT is a day time flight and NRT-LAX departs in the early evening, so having a fully-flat bed in J would seem much more important for the HND flight.

  2. I love AA and would love to see them in HND… BUT I think HA would make better use of the slot. HA would use it to re-open a route that was left years ago by a financially crippled JL. Beyond strong tourist demand, HA says there’s a lot of freight demand that can be filled with the route. I could see that, as a lot of exports to Asia originate in KOA, such as desalinated deep sea water, aquaculture products like abalone, and of course, coffee. If DL isn’t going to use the route to benefit consumers and build economic activity, then a carrier that will should be allowed to use the slot.

  3. As much as I hate to say it, there is no legitimate reason Delta should lose the slot. There are requirements and they fulfill them. And if someone gets it, I’d rather it be Hawaiian considering they utilize the slot they already have, unlike American when they had one.

  4. I have no doubt that Delta wishes to hang on to the HND slots as a part of their “five-year plan.”

    Perhaps in the interim they can increase their frequency, maybe even alternate flights from a combination of SEA, SFO & LAX departures.

    Additionally, perhaps a deep discount fare campaign could help their capacities and my mileage numbers.

  5. I don’t know why anyone would pick HND over NRT, given the God-awful arrival/departure times for US-HND flights.

  6. The real issue is the strange politics that puts the horrible time restrictions on the HND slots. Flights have to arrive and depart after 10pm and before 7am, when transit isn’t running and onward connections are very limited or require an overnight. I assume DL doesn’t so much want to prevent competitors as keep the slots for such time as when the restrictions are lifted.

    With all the challenges Japan faces, it’s crazy they have additional self-inflicted ones like these time restrictions

  7. man that map is SO wrong it makes me support DL on this one.

    why on hell are the lands blue and fhe pacific grey????

  8. Personal thought based on my experience….I flew from SEA to HND back in Nov..when checking into the sky club..I saw the place fairly empty..I figured 767 is not a huge plane but at least will some some crowds in there..I meant..there were like 5 people and the bartender was bored and wanted me to try all different drink…..(never seen/offered that before….lol….)

    When I got to talking..they were talking about how empty that plane/route is all the time…on the outbound (SEA-HND)…their conclusion..Delta flies that plane out almost empty just to bring people back from Japan to Seattle – then connections..

    On my flight..yap..first class cabin..1/3 full…economy…maybe half or less as almost everyone had a spare seat next to them after playing the take-off music chairs…(not I am complaining…not crowded and great service as a result)…I can’t imagine how much $ they would lose if they operate this flight everyday..or even 5 times a week as it’s still a long flight…

    Just when I started to wonder why….and why this flight was so cheap…

    1. You arrive late at night in Haneda..if you have connections to other asia city, which most people will (ie..Yes..lots of business in Japan but most people fly Delta to get to Hong Kong, Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan etc)…you will need to stay at an airport hotel.

    2. Yes, you are close to Tokyo but if you are connecting, you need to head back to Haneda and take a airport bus (Haneda to Narita) which was about an hr or so plus another $20-$30..can’t remember

    It was such a hassle but since I was getting a great deal..I could not complain…but it kind of made sense why all Delta flights to Narita are packed full while HND flight I was on..felt like private wide body jet.

    Anyhow..I enjoyed the flight but dislike the logistics around it and maybe that is why they don’t operate often…maybe it’s like someone pointed out’s a toy Delta doesn’t play with much but gotta have it since everyone else does…(well..except American).

  9. Actually ANA does very well on this route. A lot of businessmen take this flight all the time. It works out well for them. They leave LA around midnight, and arrive in Haneda at 5 in the morning, and leave haneda at midnight and arrive in L.A. around 5PM. When arriving into Japan though, the businessmen can usually take their next flight around 7AM so its not so bad.

    The problem with the slots is that Delta, and United always arrive at 10 PM at night.
    So people who want to connect to get to another place in Japan, have to spend the night.

    Thats why people would rather go through Narita since they can take a connecting flight from there, or take a bus over to Haneda if they can make another flight from there.

    One more thing is, that if Delta and United were to arrive at 5am in haneda, they would have to park the plane there for the entire day until 10pm for when they can leave again and spend more money on landing fees at the airport, and haneda’s landing fees are not cheap.

  10. American would be competing with not just ANA on LAX – HND but also Delta’s daily LAX – HND flight.

  11. While Delta may not be using the route in the way that’s best for the market, they are fulfilling all of the necessary requirements of the DOT by running the minimum number of fights. As such, there is no reason the route should be taken from Delta given that they are doing what was asked of them by the DOT, and they works have legal means of fighting any decision by the DOT to take the route from then because of this. Now if you want to argue that the DOT should have a higher minimum flight requirement for slots like this, that is a completely valid although separate issue.

  12. Before Delta flew SEA-HND, they briefly used that slot for a DTW-HND route. Loads were poor, which meant it was a jackpot for those flying Delta nonrev. I never had any issues getting a seat in J, even on a buddy pass. Of course, that option was quickly taken away given the losses Delta must have been facing operating with the sub 50% loads on that long haul with a 777.

  13. I live in Tokyo and much prefer Haneda over Narita, the monorail to the city centre is so much quicker than any of the Narita options. I’m sure Hawaiian has high hopes for the route. Prices for tickets from Japan to Hawaii are typically much more expensive than flights to the West or East coast even though he flight is shorter. Hawaii is a prime destination for Japanese tourists. On Sunday I arrived at Haneda at around roughly the same time as the flight from HNL and in customs, there is an interesting large LED screen showing the arriving flights along with the make-up of the passengers. In the case of the HNL flight there were 275 Japanese persons and 1 foreigner. I would say that any standalone route to Hawaii over the mainland has a much greater chance of success.

  14. With the definition “sloppy seconds” – everybody would get into HND without restrictions rofl

  15. I agree with Ian. The problem is not what DL os doing, rather is the minimum requirements set by DOT.

  16. @Lucky- I just got a pop-up saying I was today’s lucky visitor, etc. I haven’t been on any other sites for 6-8 hours (I know. What a life!) so I was wondering if you knew anything about that

  17. I keep getting shifted over to the app store for some contest thing when I read the blog on my iPhone. I don’t have any issues on the computer.

  18. @Neil S.- It was on my iPad. It came up and said “You are today’s lucky visitor. Press continue (don’t remember the last part exactly)…” I hit continue because it wouldn’t let me click out of it and even though I got out of Safari it was still there, and it came back two more times. It finally went away, but it was a little annoying. I have not visited ANY other sites on it, except for American Airlines, so…

  19. I am offended at the title “sloppy seconds”. You are comparing American and Hawaiian air to a ‘sex act’.

  20. Delta’s flights from HNL to destinations in Japan are always amusing. Most of the clientele is Japanese, but since they never fly Delta outside of that one route, almost none have any status. So Economy Comfort and the upper level cabins are regularly dead empty, while regular economy is often quite crowded. But no one has the status to upgrade out of it, and no one’s willing to pay for it, either.

  21. How about if Delta arrived at HND at 5 am, flew the plane to some other Asian destination and back to depart HND again at 10 pm?

  22. I’ve flown HNL-HND on both Hawaiian and ANA…always packed with tourists and the occasional US citizen. I’m pretty sure JL does darn well on its HND-HNL route as well.

    The weird slots work just right for Hawaii…they’re able to land in HND at 2200 and turn the plane right around for a midnight departure back to HNL, then land back in the islands around noon.

    I say, give them to HA in Kona. Heck, if push comes to shove, they’ll feed connections from the neighbor islands and or US west coast to fill the flight.

    Kona is a nice alternative if HNL-HND fares are insanely high.

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