Wow: Delta Pulls Out Of Tokyo Narita, Cuts Singapore Flight

Filed Under: Delta

Delta has just revealed a radical change to their Asian route network. This move further reinforces Delta’s heavy focus on their joint ventures, and in this case their joint venture with Korean Air.

Delta ending operations at Tokyo Narita

Tokyo Haneda is Tokyo’s more convenient airport, though historically it has had very limited slots available for US carriers. Recently the DOT tentatively granted an additional 12 slots to US airlines at Haneda.

The DOT sure acted in favor of Delta with these allocations, as Delta got five of the 11 available slots.

Delta was granted flights to Tokyo Haneda from Atlanta, Detroit, Honolulu, Portland, and Seattle. On top of that, the airline already flies from Los Angeles and Minneapolis to Haneda, meaning they’ll have service to Haneda from seven markets.

There was talk that this would lead to Delta completely leaving Narita. That’s not surprising, given that they were the weakest of the “big three” at the airport. American has close ties with Japan Airlines, while United has close ties with ANA. Delta, on the other hand, didn’t have a major partner at the airport.

Delta has now revealed that they plan to transfer their full operations of US to Tokyo services from Narita to Haneda. Delta notes that they’ll be the largest US airline serving Haneda, with seven daily flights.

The plan is for this change to take plane with the summer 2020 IATA flying season (which means in reality we should expect these changes in the spring).

Delta ending Tokyo to Singapore flight

As of September 22, 2019, Delta will discontinue their Tokyo Narita to Singapore flight. This is a flight that they’ve been operating for years, though the airline notes that the route has been under financial pressure as direct US to Singapore capacity has continued to grow, combined with local carriers having stronger brand loyalty and alliance partnerships.

It’s not at all surprising to see this cut, since it’s not like Delta’s only flight out of Narita was going to be out of Singapore. That flight was based around connections, so that just wouldn’t make sense.

As Delta notes, there are now many nonstops from the US to Singapore, and for those traveling with one stop, they can travel through Seoul Incheon on Delta’s joint venture partner, Korean Air.

Nonetheless it is noteworthy that the airline is pulling out of this market, especially since Delta cut flights to Hong Kong as of last year. Those are two major markets.

While United seems to be all about ultra long haul flying nowadays, it is interesting that Delta can’t make Hong Kong or Singapore work out of their Seattle hub, because they certainly have a geographical advantage.

Manila flight transfers from Narita to Incheon

Delta also operates a flight from Tokyo Narita to Manila (since they don’t fly nonstop from the US to Manila). With Narita service being cut, the airline also plans to convert their Narita to Manila flight into a Seoul Incheon to Manila flight as of March 2020.

So Delta will fly between Seoul Incheon and Manila daily as part of their joint venture with Korean Air, given that they’re not able to secure any Haneda slots for intra-Asia flying.

I’m not sure I even really get why they’re operating that flight. It seems that with their Korean Air joint venture that they could handle the capacity.

My take

Delta is in a really fortunate situation in terms of the slots they got at Tokyo Haneda. There is something to be said for being able to streamline everything at one airport, and by next year they’ll have the most slots at Haneda of any US airline.

With them pulling out of Narita, it also makes perfect sense that they’re ending flights to Singapore. It also makes sense that they’re transferring their Manila flight from Narita to Incheon, though I sort of wonder why they don’t just book people on Korean Air joint ventures.

Does Delta really think they have a competitive advantage for operating their own metal the whole way?

Lastly, I do think this raises an interesting overall point regarding how the DOT has allocated Haneda slots. They allocate these slots based on what’s in the best interest of the public, and I’d argue what’s in the best interest of consumers is more capacity, since that leads to more options and lower fares.

While some airlines are using new Haneda slots to add service to Japan, Delta is adding virtually no capacity with being awarded these slots. Is that really in the best interest of the public? Shouldn’t a major point of consideration for the DOT be whether or not airlines plan to add or simply replace service?

What do you make of Delta’s major Asia strategy shift here?

  1. Hope you don’t mind me poining out a spelling error: “any Haneda slats for intra-Asia flying”.

  2. Makes me nostalgic, but all things must end. Took that flight on NWA in 1996, DTW-NRT-SIN, with the DTW-NRT legs on the 747. Every time people complain about high fares today I remind them that that flight in economy cost $1600, which is about $2600 in 2019. You can buy that flight for about $1400 today for flights in October.

  3. They will not be able to make a go of HND either, so expect a draw down soon.

    The (not so) secret thing about US-Japan business is that the front of cabin is heavily weighted on the Japanese point of sale. This is why NH and JL continue to be able to offer F to the US, when most other large scale network carriers have been scaling it back.

    There is literally a snowball’s chance in hell that any Japanese business people would choose DL over JL or NH. Zero. Nada. Never. Gonna. Happen.

    So now, they need to fill these O/D flights to Tokyo with just the volume of demand in their network but without any connectivity in Tokyo? With their track record? Nah.

  4. The DOT awarded HND slots based on Alliance market share while taking NRT incumbents into consideration. Consumer interest is to fly to HND rather than NRT, and given the fact that HND was made available, the intention all along was to give incumbents the opportunity to move their operations to HND. Given that, it is clear why DL has received as many slots as it did. This is not a “who can offer new service to TYO” opportunity.

    As for DL’s MNLICN flight, may be political or contractual reasons for this, or simply the fact that DL is able to sustain it’s market share on its own. Think beyond your free points who’s metal has bigger balls view of the airline industry.

  5. This is crazy. Completely crazy.

    Delta no longer flies New York–Tokyo.

    Delta no longer flies to Hong Kong.

    Delta no longer flies to Singapore.

    Delta do longer flies to Bangkok.

    This is CRAZY.

    But they keep Manila? I’m guessing the Manila flights are VERY, VERY lucrative because they are always full. Maybe there is even a government subsidy involved.

    I feel bad for all the mileage runners because Delta to Singapore was the best mileage run.

  6. They might have a government contract for Manila, which would necessitate flying their own metal, no?

    Regardless, this was all a long time coming, and once the HND slots were approved, it was all but certain.

  7. Hope you don’t mind me pointing out a spelling error: “The plan is for this change to take plane with the summer”

  8. Wonder how DL will do on ICN-MNL as it is an interesting market as it will compete with the low cost airlines and PR,OZ, and KE. Of all the destinations in the Asia-Pacific that DL has ended from NRT, MNL was the last standing.

    Forgive my ignorance, but for anyone who is more knowledgeable, what factors made the NRT-MNL that good to keep when all the other routes deemed to get fade away during the last decade?

  9. Oh no! I already booked an award ticket for April 2020 (MNL – NRT). I’m guessing they might cancel my itinerary anytime soon?

  10. I think the best interest of the public is because DL is a third competitor to the JA/AA and UA/NH duopoly.

  11. Makes perfect sense to me. Delta wouldn’t be competitive routing all of their Tokyo flights through Seoul on Korean so bulk up those direct flights. For flights that already have to connect intra-Asia base them out of Seoul. If AA or UA were partnered up with Korean Air they’d look to do the same thing, but they’re partnered with ANA and JAL.

  12. I’m thinking back to when I was a flight attendant for Northwest and how in the late afternoon there would be so many red tails on the ground at Narita! Over the years I flew 747’s, DC10’s, A330’s and even 757’s in and out of that busy hub. All gone…

  13. End of an era when Northwest flights used to fan out to the rest of Asia. Delta doesn’t even serve TPE or BKK anymore. Crazy

  14. @FNT Delta Diamond of course there’s subsidy involved. The US government would like to maintain positive relations with the Philippines lest they risk losing a strategic partner in the region to China. You’d think they’d announce Seattle-Singapore as a reaction to SQ’s plans for next year since DL clearly can draw from a larger pool of passengers, but nope. No clue why

  15. @Gabe: if we wanted terrible insights that are just flat out wrong, we would be reading VFTW instead

  16. I’m currently booked on the DL flight between NRT and SIN in late October, 2019. If this is accurate, I assume DL will be rerouting me through ICN?

  17. When I lived in Japan Northwest aircraft were so common at Narita as they set off daily all over East Asia. Often flew nrt – bkk and nrt-sin because they always had competitive fares! That’s quite something that twenty years later they are gone.

  18. I wonder if the flight to MNL is heavily subsidized by the US government. The only reason to continue that flight is heavy military ties with the Philippines (contractors, service members etc) to counter Chinese presence in the region.

  19. Interesting post! But my question is not so much the implications for Delta, but rather the implications for NRT. What does this mean for Japan’s largest international hub airport? Haneda is superb for Tokyo O/D travel and it seems to be eating aggressively into NRT market share. There will always be enough of a market for NRT given Tokyo’s size and increasing prominence for international tourism, but I just wonder what this will mean for NRT over the long term. I don’t think NRT will go the way of Montreal’s Mirabel…

  20. It might be because there’s a US military base in Manila and if they’re the only US carrier flying to Manila, with the Fly America Act, this makes it a necessity (and a lucrative one) to keep flying this route.

  21. The decision to keep MNL instead of SIN is not surprising for me based on one observation from the DL-KE Joint Venture. Based on the JV, DL would sell US-Asia flights with all DL-coded flights via ICN (putting DL code on KE flights departing from ICN). However, Philippines and China are excluded from this, as the KE flights would still have KE flight number, even sold by DL in an itinerary from the US (you can check this on DL website).

    I guess for China destinations because DL would like to connect through PVG with MU, while for Philippines they have decided to continue fly themselves before the JV.

  22. I believe Delta does (or has someone else do) some heavy maintenance on their widebody aircraft in Manila, so it’s presumably easier to have their own service there rather than having to fly aircraft empty to get there.

  23. Flying the US to Manila via Seoul looks really geographically inconvenient. Like way out of the way. Why not start LAX to Manila, unless they’re banking on a lot of traffic between Manila and Seoul?

  24. The legacy of NW (inherited by DL) here in MNL could not be overstated. My great grandmother used to fly NW to and from MNL to NYC in the 1950s and 60s. I myself, as a student in the U.S. would take NW’s MNL-NRT-ORD every year in the early 90s — along with all my classmates (around 6 of us, just in N.U.) To my surprise many of them still remained loyal to NW, then changed their loyalties to DL since then. There should still be thousands of DL SkyMiles/Medallion members here. This, in spite of PR nonstop to LAX, SFO, JFK, HNL. Plus the choice of one-stop w/ CX, JL, NH, BR, etc. When I hear folks flying to the U.S., their main choices are: PR? Or DL? So I get why DL would retain presence here. Now as to why not KL — those flights (3x a day to MNL) are ALWAYS full. Koreans are the #1 tourist source for the Philippines…

  25. Delta staying in MNL could have a lot to do with slot space there as well. NAIA is notoriously busy now that they’re unable to expand out with another terminal. If they’re passing capacity onto KAL and KAL can’t get another slot, there might be issues there, hence needing to keep operating a somewhat busy route out of MNL.

    It would make a bunch of sense if KAL could just take their slot, but I don’t know if it works like that … who know what arbitrary restrictions the Philippines bureaucratic entities put on airlines …

  26. @GlennSL – The NWA legacy is definitely still strong in Manila and in the Philippines. Those iconic NWA 747s were a sight to be seen at NAIA, then the Delta 747s, and now the daily 767s. They still maintain a very strong loyal base especially for the wealthier Filipino-Americans who are less price conscious than most of the VFR traffic. And agreed, Koreans are the number one tourist source for the Philippines and in addition the high number of Korean students living in the Philippines for school. So the O&D probably will help albeit an already busy market.

    As mentioned above, it’s also a strategic political move with the US & Philippines governments.

  27. @keitherson

    Unfortunately I also agree with @Gabe.

    Serving 7 flights to HND is just too much for DL. With no feeder in Japan, DL is banking on Tokyo-USA, which I don’t believe DL has enough demand for 7 flights. My only thought is DL blocking AA/UA from a getting slots and maybe use it to trade them for more TATL slots.

    One thing I’m sure is Japanese premium would not pay such high prices to go to MSP or PDX. I’m going to bet that either will be first to go.

  28. Delta’s new cabins are good Contrary to what was mentioned above, Japanese don’t only fly on ANA and JAL. Narita is still busy although it’s so far out from central Tokyo , with almost 43 million last year and 35 million of those were international Haneda has far fewer international passengers

  29. @archer528

    LAX-ICN-MNL is actually not that much farther than LAX-MNL direct. The connection in Seoul only adds about 300 miles to a route that’s already well over 7,000 miles. Of course, the connection itself adds more travel time, but the route distance is not much longer whether you fly direct vs. connect at ICN (or HND or TPE or PVG for that matter).

  30. I see Seoul Manila as a win for us, based in MSP and traveling to Manila often. We lost the one stop flight when it the MSP flight started going Haneda. Might be nice flying Delta metal all the way to Manila as they don’t currently codeshare on the KE flights..

  31. On a related note, why are the UA and NH flights between NRT and SFO/LAX scheduled at around the same time ? It sounds that UA are NH are competing for the same traffic despite codesharing.

  32. Aeromexico is flying one flight per day from Narita T1 to Ciudad de Mexico, and sharing facilities with Delta (e.g. Delta Sky Club). One will imagine that AM would be quite lonely after Delta’s departure.

  33. I knew that this was coming, I knew this like 9 months ago. That’s why I pitched to Delta that they should launch nonstop service from Minneapolis to Singapore and Manila, so they can keep the service going. I mean it’s a long shot but Minneapolis has the second best connections outside of Atlanta, and the distances between Manila and Singapore to Minneapolis is about the same geographically speaking if you were to fly both Manila and Singapore to Los Angeles.

  34. I just cannot believe Delta will no longer fly to Singapore on top of Hong Kong. Those are the two financial capitals of Asia. United is looking really good right now, especially backtracking and announcing it will renovate 787s to feature 1x2x1 Polaris ASAP. Between that and the dedicated Polaris lounges, Delta and Delta One is no longer competitive ANYWHERE in Asia-Pacific.

  35. Now that the expected part has unfolded, let’s come to the future cuts :-). Honestly, I don’t believe DL can profitably sustain six daily nonstops from the mainland to HND with zero connectivity on HND side. They are just doing this because they knew they will get the slots (which they did).

    My prediction is MSP will be the first to go (and soon). Launching MSP-ICN was pretty much a prep for that. PDX is better off as a JL route in partnership with AS. DL will be looking into launching SLC/PDX-ICN and these HND routes are mere placeholders for Asia capacity and efficiently blocking UA from expanding further in Asia (Let’s forget about AA – they’ve given up Asia).

    In the near future, we should expect to hear comments from Ed about how they want to provide a ‘better and consistent overall product and service in asia by leveraging the JV with KE and excellent opportunities available at ICN’…

  36. I think you should poke around the MNL situation a little more. It could be bilateral language in the JV agreement with KE and which markets are allowed to carry each other’s code. Or one of the issues that comes up ALOT with pilots is scope, and they include handing off flying to JV partners in there as well. I don’t know the details of DL’s contract with the pilots, but it could be that dropping BOTH SIN and MNL and handing the flying over to the KE JV would cause a limit to be breached in their contract. Just speculation on my part.

  37. There are THOUSANDS of Filipino Merchant Seamen, Cruiseline/Cargo Ship Crewmembers that fly out of the West Coast and South Florida every Sunday and Monday usually, when the ships dock and crew rotates. DL probably has a very lucrative contract with these companies.Not to mention the Overseas Foriegn Workers going home.
    Also there’s a huge S. Korean Expat/Student community in the Phillippines.
    South Koreans are also the 1 tourists group to the Philippines especially for Diving. There’s Korean stores/restaurants everywhere in Cebu.
    There is a growing middle class in the Philippines that are now traveling all over Asia and Seoul Korea is their top go to spot besides Tokyo. CebuPacific Airlines serves S. Korea from CEB and MNL and those flts are always full.
    FYI Far East Russians love to go to the Philippines so I assume there could be codeshare DL/KE Vladivostok-ICN-MNL flts.
    Palawan, Sequijor, Batanes etc are now the Fashionable Go To Locations for the young hip crowd around the world because of Instagram.
    If UA can sustain Guam -MNL why not ICN-MNL

  38. I am disappointed at the end of the NRT-SIN route. Living in HNL, our first choice of using China Air (redeeming sky miles, used to be a great use of miles) does not seem to be an option anymore. The DL route through NRT was very convenient. KE has strong connection going out but a ~15 hr layover connecting back to HNL. Hopefully, DL and KE will start integrating their FF programs a little more.

  39. Does DL really need 7 flights to HND, a city with no local partner or meaningful feed? Yes it’s a big market, but so are HKG and SIN, cities not served at all. Ed Bastian said in a previous article that NRT was a challenge with no alliance partner to provide feed. Not sure how the move to HND changes that.

    Seems like four, maybe five, flights would cover DL demand. Did they want the extra slots to keep them out of AA/UA hands?

  40. I’m curious to know where the a/c to Manila will be coming from and what a/c will be used. Currently, the a/c to Manila comes from the Honolulu-Narita leg.

  41. “As Delta notes, there are now many nonstops from the US to Singapore, and for those traveling with one stop, they can travel through Seoul Incheon on Delta’s joint venture partner, Korean Air.”

    Could you please put a link to where Delta noted this? And if it came from a press release, could you please link to the original source?

  42. It is not like nobody is flying to Singapore. Singapore has exploded as a destination in its own right and not just a 24-hour layover en route to Bali or Australia. Not flying to Singapore, not flying to Hong Kong, not flying to Taiwan, and all the other intra-Asia routes that were eliminated is unthinkable. What’s the point of all these long-haul aircraft if Delta is going to rely on its partners, be they Asian partners or European partners? How can a major US airline, an airline that bills itself as New York’s hometown airline, not fly to Hong Kong or Singapore? Heck. Dubai. Worse yet, it isn’t resuming New York-Tokyo!

  43. Korean Air is not allowed to add additional service to Manila. This allows them to add frequency in the market.

  44. Haven’t researched specifics of MNL to offer comments in my usual detailed fashion.

    So, will offer anecdotal points based solely on personal experience as my partner is Filipino, and his dad especially, as others have noted, is fiercely loyal to Delta – and has been as far back as I can remember in our nearly 14 years together for all of his annual trips (including his upcoming flights this fall, which is via ATL/ICN on KE metal both ways where its 747-8 flight was 1st choice after he, and 11 other family members, flew that itinerary for our recent Xmas family reunion/homecoming);

    – Apart from other factors already noted by several readers above (military contracts, government contracts, etc.; or limited take off slots at NAIA), when I passed Delta’s gate in late Dec on the way to our Cathay Pacific flight, the hold-room area was full and there already was a very long queue waiting to board Delta’s 767 to NRT.

    Lastly, one benefit that Delta offers over KE is the terminal at NAIA itself:

    – Delta is located in the modern, far more pleasant, and possibly most importantly given the (unbelievable until one sees it for themself!) type of traffic jams and gridlock that is indescribable in many parts of Manila, but especially around the airport, Terminal 3.

    Terminal 3 is not only more modern and on a par with what most travelers expect at large urban airports, but it also has something that none of the other terminals (there are 4 in all) have: a direct, covered walkway over the NAIA Expressway that links the terminal with the Resorts World Casino development where many hotels, and a smallish, but high end, mall are.

    So, in a city where getting from the hotels and casino to other terminals requires enduring a type of traffic jam that really has to be seen and experienced to really understand just how insane it is, and how long it can take to get from one terminal to the other, or to/from the casino/hotels, that covered walkway where the hotel drops one off at a lobby where they undergo the first of several security screenings (which btw, is far quicker and way more pleasant [indoors with air conditioning, anyone?] than the long lines in high heat and humidity one must endure outside of the terminals on the departures level roadway before being cleared to enter the building itself…), by being located in NAIA T3 Delta is light years better off than…

    – Korean Air, which is located in Terminal 1 there…

    And it goes without saying that Terminal 1 at NAIA, which dates back to the Marcos’ days, that KE uses, isn’t nearly as nice and amenity filled as Delta’s Terminal 3 is!

    So that is reason enough to attract people to Delta’s metal!

    “Just sayin’” 😉

  45. @FNT Delta Diamond
    Delta is betting big on China with Shanghai… Doesn’t seem too bad based on current turmoil in HKG.
    For Singapore, I agree, they should have SEA-SIN or LAX-SIN or better yet non stop midwest (msp/dtw) to singapore.

  46. So DL will commit one plane (or one day’s worth of flying for one plane) just to ICN-MNL-ICN? That doesn’t sound very efficient and is what I thought was a big cost disadvantage for those fifth freedom routes.

  47. Those seven flights out of HND will have approximately 400 less connections to feed them without the inbound flights from SIN and MNL that transferred connections to the NRT flights.

  48. If HND is available, what the hell would Japanese fly out from NRT with very limited connections!
    HND is the busiest airport in Japan. I bet many people don’t know that.
    Delta is making smart move. American and United would never be able to compete with Delta within Japan market anymore.

  49. I’m amazed at the amount of erroneous speculation in this thread by people who obviously don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. Under the U.S.- Philippines bilateral air transport agreement, U.S. carriers are not allowed to code-share to the Philippines. So DL doesn’t have the option of putting its code on KE flights beyond ICN as it does to the various other destinations in Asia that it used to serve with its own metal. It either serves MNL with its own metal, or not at all.

  50. @FNT Delta Diamond

    When was the last time you visited Singapore. SIN is still just only a good layover. Too many better place to go if you already spent 48 hours in Singapore in the last 5 years. Crazy Rich Asian just showed how little the island has to offer.

    Now to think of it, DL might just keep the 7 flights till Summer of 2020. Afterwards maybe using 5th freedom out of HND?

  51. As I had understood, Delta actually made their intentions very clear. The whole reason for creating a new hub in Seattle was so that they could dismantle the Narita hub in such a way that the connecting point to Asian cities would be Seattle rather than Tokyo. Awarding them slots at haneda airport just made the process go more quickly. It does seem somewhat of an injustice for Delta Airlines to essentially be awarded what might be considered to be focus city status at haneda, one of the best airports in the world according to skytrax, while they dismantle a major Hub that they acquired through their merger with Northwest Airlines. There are other airlines that offer better products that are more deserving of those haneda slots then Delta is.

  52. “The plan is for this change to take plane with the summer 2020 IATA flying season (which means in reality we should expect these changes in the spring).” —

    … which makes me wonder how well DL will capitalize on its newly prolific HND slots for the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020?

  53. I wonder how much Delta will spend rebooking passengers booked well into next year on the Singapore flights. It can’t be cheap.

  54. I think I want to add something here. It is “rumored” that Philippines Airlines is on “the process” if joining an alliance and is preferring SkyTeam. In this case, Delta staying in Manila makes sense as Delta is a member of SkyTeam and may use it as a feed for their Manila service. Philippine Airlines on the other hand is rumored to have a plan to launch Manila-Seattle or Manila-Chicago route. On my take here, I think Philippine Airlines should let a codeshare with Delta in Manila-Seattle route while PAL should focus on its MNL-LAX,SFO,JFK and Honolulu services. If done right, PAL is a good addition to SkyTeam as Filipino Americans is one of the biggest Asian American demographics in USA. This might prompt Delta to cut ICN-MNL route cause that route is highly competitive by KE, PAL, OZ not to mention lots of LCCs in that route. Delta may use Philippine Airlines as a connection to its Southeast Asian Routes like Singapore, Bangkok and even Middle East which is a win-win situation for both Delta and PAL. (Of course, if done right)

  55. The plan when the new airport was built at NRT was all international flights and domestically HND. When flying to Tokyo HND is a no brainer over NRT.

  56. @TravelinDan,

    While Delta cannot put its code for KE operated flights ICN-MNL, KE can, and does, put its code on Delta operated connecting flights to/from USA gateways to/from other cities (for example, ATL-CLT, ATL-RDU, ATL-MCO, etc.) for itineraries booked using KE’s web site, as was done for several of the 12 other family members I booked for our MNL trip last year.

    Some were booked from end-to-end in both directions (all 6 flights) using KE’s code/flight #s; while others were a mix of DL+KE codes.

    The only difference was/still is based on the booking made a few weeks’ ago, is that one airline, Delta, is much easier to deal with for things like seat assignments, schedule changes, special services (wheelchairs for elderly or disabled/reduced mobility) than the other, as more often than not, Korean Air is…let’s just say “difficult” and very frustrating.

    Don’t get me wrong! Everyone LOVED their Delta/Korean Air itineraries via ATL & ICN – so much so I guess that even when I found itineraries via other Delta hubs such as MSP or SEA that cost less for C+ than the DL/KE itinerary in KE’s main cabin taken in December/January, the request was for same flights as last time!

    The point is, with or without code-sharing abilities, everyone’s flights were indistinguishable and everyone was very pleased.

    So, other than ticketing issues, or how “code”-biases for connections built are displayed on screens, the overall experience was seamless as far as they were concerned.

    Of course, being my family’s travel agent, they did NOT have to deal with a very fickle Korean Air – so they missed out on the headaches I dealt with that were so frustrating that I made at least three trips to KE’s counter at JFK Airport to iron out some of the kinks in person.

    But, that would be the same whether KE coded or not as I had hoped that by booking the upcoming itinerary via Delta’s web site I could avoid “difficult” KE – only to end up on the telephone laughing with a Delta rep as we both talked about how “difficult” KE is – even for DL reps!

    Anyhow, and to wrap things up, does the prohibition on DL placing its code on KE ICN-MNL flights supersede the provisions of the “Open Skies” treaty
    that allows for DL + KE to form their anti-trust immunized joint venture alliance?

    I probably could look that up, but not in time to complete this reader’s comment reply to your note – so just asking if you (or others) knew instead?


  57. I fly to MNL almost every month…the flight both ways, every day of the week, is full. Bigger market than most think. I constantly see large corporations with executives flying that route paying for premium/business cabins.

  58. Curious, how Delta’s Singapore office incorporates Greater China and Singapore, don’t you think? SIN-ICN is quite a long flight, given that flights to Seoul have to skirt the Chinese coastline. In contrast, SIN-PEK/ PKX, SIN -PVG is a mind boggling 5h and 4h45min respectively.

    This ain’t over yet.

  59. @Eskimo
    As a Filipino who’s visited Singapore twice, that’s a highly inaccurate representation there. I guess it’s not the destination for everyone, but if you’re the kind who’s into nightlife, shopping, food, or events, it’s definitely a destination going to at least once in your life.

  60. Wasn’t there a time that NW even had NW 1 to MNL? I don’t know but I’m thinking that the reason why they kept MNL was because of KE or maybe a government agreement. Last two standing there are DL and UA.

  61. @ Jack, yes! That was in the mid-90s, I think. A friend who worked at NW said it was because it was NW’s top performing transpacific flight. (At the time)

  62. Sad train-wreck story. I’ve been based in Tokyo for decades and used the Northwest Narita hub for my travel throughout Asia. I was even famous in Incheon check-in counter as that Western guy who always gets off at Narita. Super convenient and racked up plenty of FF points. There was no comparison on price and convenience for that NW service versus Cathay, SingAir, ANA, JAL, Asiana…… then Delta took out NW and the disintegration began. Yes, Haneda is closer but the “captive value” they apparently created was doubling of my travel costs and an airport lounge with zero flexibility. Guess we have to call this progress.

  63. Delta closing its NRT hub is disappointing but the writing has been on the wall for a while. As an indication of the amount of traffic there, delta used to have two NRT skyclubs. A few years ago Dick Anderson showed up when Delta first started dumping Asia service. Bangkok was one of the first to go. United is the only US carrier there now. Anderson assured the staff of Delta’s commitment to NRT. A sure kiss of death.

    Having DL flights to Asian destinations from NRT was great for using global upgrades the whole way. Now Diamonds with GUCs will get business class to ICN or PVG then in the back of the bus to the final destination.

    One area I wish was covered in this post is the effect on 5th freedom rights. I’d think those are valuable. Does DL loose them because it no longer flies from Japan to other countries? Anybody know?

  64. Japan’s MLIT isn’t going to like this.
    One of the requirements for HND slots is that the carrier getting the HND slot doesn’t reduce service to NRT.
    If DL won’t fly to NRT, then technically they have no rights to HND slots.

  65. Ironically, Delta for years said it was committed to NRT even as it started making cuts. The second Sky Club was open as recently as 2017. Once Delta slashedGuam, Saipan, and Palau after eliminating Taiwan in late 2017 or early 2018 it was clear NRT was done, despite Delta’s significant marketshare between Tokyo and Hawaii. I think the real issue is Delta couldn’t compete. Plain and simple. Even Delta One from Tokyo to Manila, Singapore, Honolulu, etc. wasn’t real Delta One. It was a very stripped down service that fell somewhere above very good domestic first-class and below New York-Los Angeles transcontinental Delta One. Meanwhile, all of the Asian airlines offered very good business and even first-class products. Combined with United overhauling its business-class with Polaris it left Delta with an uncompetitive premium product that made eliminating these routes easy.

  66. @HowardMiller:

    There is no Open Skies agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines. The currently effective bilateral agreement was signed October 3, 1980, more than a decade before Open Skies was even thought of. It has been amended a few times since then, most recently in 1995, but not to bring it into line with Open Skies principles.

    Korea and the U.S. do have an Open Skies agreement, which was the predicate for the grant of antitrust immunity for the DL/KE joint venture. Under the Open Skies agreement between the U.S. and Korea, and the immunized joint venture agreement, KE can put its code on whatever DL flights the two carriers choose to agree on, and vice versa, but the Philippine Government has never committed to allow code-sharing by U.S. carriers in its market, nor is it required to do so under the 1980 agreement as amended, which remains currently in effect.

    So you will not find instances of U.S. carriers code-sharing with their alliance partners to/from the Philippines. AA flows traffic with its partners JL over Tokyo and CX over Hong Kong, but the sectors beyond Japan/Hong Kong to the Philippines are always ticketed as JL/CX, never as AA. Similarly, UA flows its traffic onto NH at NRT, but pax are ticketed on the NH code beyond NRT.

  67. My entire family, even my grandparents, always used to fly NW from MNL through Japan to the US east coast, back when NW had flights between MNL-NRT, MNL-NGO, and MNL-KIX– and way back when long-range flights weren’t the norm.

    We’re not even business travellers, but we’ve always been loyal to NW and now, DL, because they provide comparatively great service. DL may be slightly more expensive, but you get the convenience of having seamless connections when flying the same airline to your final destination. We’d prefer to fly Delta, and check our baggage once than switch airlines at the west coast because there aren’t many US carriers to choose from, for transpacific flights. Apart from the different cities in Japan served by NW, there was even a time when there were multiple flights between MNL and NRT daily. All these flights have always been full, even overbooked at times.

    This is even despite the fact that there are lower cost carriers to compete for the transpacific seats. Delta’s advantage in Manila: other US carriers barely have a presence, offering hassle-free travel to any point in the US. The result is fierce customer loyalty. It’s a shame Delta scaled back its presence in Asia. MNL and NRT used to have so many NW planes parked at their gates since the post-war era.

    Do not assume that there is some subsidy or government agreement for DL to keep flying to MNL–don’t forget the unique history between the Philippines and the US, and the Philippines as a tourist destination. A partnership with PR would even help funnel passengers from southeast asia to the US.

  68. A very sad day with the suspension of the NRT hub. It’s really the true sunset for NWA, along with the retirement of the 744. It was impressive to land in NRT and see a field of red-tail 747’s on the ground. In the 80’s I was a flight attendant for NWA and NRT was my second home. I only flew for three years but great memories from my flying career.

    What I remember about MNL was the flights were always full, but competing with PR, CI and KE which consistently had rock bottom cheap fares to MNL. There is no loyalty in that market, it is completely price sensitive driven. Where NWA made money was on the excess baggage fees. At check-in, you would see stacks and stacks of “balikbayan” boxes bound for MNL filled with anything and everything you could think of. Passengers would pay the excess baggage fee just to bring in “gifts” for family members. And balikbayan boxes that NWA could not load as baggage or cargo, was sent via FedEx. Even with the FedEx cost, NWA made money on excess baggage fees. Same is true in the Latin America market. Its the ancillary fees and revenue that makes these flights profitable.

    One other note, I used to fly ORD-NRT (NW 003/004); and we had a lot of passengers bound for MNL on the trans pacific leg. Mid way through the flight, we always ran out of toilet paper and paper towels, I was consistently re-replenishing the bathroom supplies until it was depleted. Just thought I would mention that….

  69. Thank god, alla , buddy all whomever, that none of you guys run an airline! Conditions change and nothing stays the same. Beside DAL makes more money than ANY airline in the world! So please tell me why keeping NRT is right and profitable.

  70. Here’s a personal update on the situation…I wasn’t about to wait around to be rebooked so I called the medallion line proactively to rebook myself. Apparently DL is still waiting on DOT approval for this schedule change, and until that happens, DL is holding any bookings on flight 169 the way they are. The rep I spoke to mentioned that most passengers flying between the US and Singapore would be rerouted via ICN on a combination of DL and Korean metal. For those transiting directly to SIN via Tokyo, they’re exploring more creative solutions, such as temporary flights from HND. Obviously I can’t corroborate any of this, it’s just what I was told. In my case, I simply rebooked from DTW to SIN via ICN with the second leg on Korean.

  71. I agree with @Gabe. Delta does not have a chance for premium Asian and even U.S. exec pax who seek out First Class. @Icarus, “good” does not get it in this market. I just booked one-way SIN – LAX on SQ12 via NRT for $8K USD. Only four First Suites and SQ’s amazing soft product. This blows DL away and their “good” Delta One product with 40+ “suites” (not) is more expensive! Ironically, I’m ATL-based and I avoid DL like the plague for intl flights. Their hard and soft premium product is inferior to almost every major Asian and ME carrier serving these markets.

  72. If this were to be slot assigning by CAAC between the big three, Air China will ALWAYS WIN… I guess DOT actually do something fair sometimes.

  73. @gabe
    @FNT Delta Diamond
    and others – don’t panic. Delta knows what they are doing.
    Look for more flights to India.

  74. All of the above re: keeping DL in MNL (military, seamen, et al) PLUS, MNL FAs are paid MUCH less than HKG or SIN FAs. It saddens me to see the NWA network trashed by DL. Signed, 35 year NWA Purser/FA

  75. Not airline expert here, but I imagine keeping/changing Manila is a way for DL to always maintain a presence in the market with their metal…because there is no intention to ever serve MNL from the US. But Singapore and Hong King? This Empire Will Strike Back – from US gateways, absolutely. If not from SEA, then ultra-competitive LAX. As a New Yorker, I do lament their lack of JFK to Tokyo nonstop. : /

  76. That’s a major fuck up because you get downgraded from premium eco to economy using Korean Air flying Inc to Sin …Wished I was alerted sooner before getting delta’s useless credit card as well …
    My travels mostly targets Singapore via Narita

  77. I also thought that NRT-SIN and NRT-MNL might also work from HNL (ie: HNL-SIN and HNL-MNL). The distance between HNL and SIN would need a different aircraft than B767-300ER (just too far) and A330-900neo might be too many seats and currently 339-900neo does NOT go to HNL, but HNL-MNL would work with a B767-300ER. At least this routing would not be “out of the way” which is what I saw earlier in a post.

  78. How can Delta call herself a major player in Asia without serving no-stop Tokyo and Hong Kong from New York? The idea of making a stop in Korea to reach Japan is ridiculous.
    I suspect Delta realized that they cannot beat the in-flight customer service of JAL and ANA (young and smiling flight attendants, courtesy, premium food etc.) and keeps only destination like Manila where the local airlines are crap!

  79. I am a retired employee of Delta Air Lines. I worked 20 years in Honolulu. I am so upset about Delta not flying into Narita and Singapore anymore! Delta is making so much money and is the best international carrier. Why would you pull out of those destinations?

  80. One probable reason why Delta decided to keep Manila while axing the NRT route and move it to ICN is for historical purposes. Before Delta acquired Northwest Airlines, Northwest was the first airline to begin direct service between US and Japan on a DC-4 plane aptly named “The Manila” in 1947. The flight began at Minneapolis with stopovers at Edmonton, Anchorage, and Shemya in Alaska, before continuing to Tokyo. From there it flew to Shanghai and lastly to Manila. For Delta, it’s best for it not to abandon Manila altogether because it holds name recognition there as the successor to Northwest Airlines.

  81. @Mike O. DL will be using the same aircraft from its SEA-ICN leg. It and the onward ICN-MNL flight share one flight number.

  82. DL deciding to keep MNL makes sense. There are at least 4 million people in the US who identify themselves as having Filipino descent.

    As to the ICN to MNL route: Aside from Filipinos working in S. Korea, the Philippines gets at least 1 million tourists from S. Korea annually.

    Hence, the US – S. Korea – Philippines market is a lucrative market

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