Hawaiian Airlines has set its sights on serving Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport from the Big Island.

In an application filed at the Transportation Department, Hawaiian said it could begin Kona-Haneda service as early as March, offering a daily nonstop with A330 aircraft, complementing its existing Tokyo Haneda service from Honolulu.

The application for a second Haneda route was triggered by a kerfuffle at the DOT caused by Delta’s recent admission that its Detroit-Haneda service is “underperforming.” Delta wants to switch its Haneda route from the Detroit gateway to Seattle.

Other airlines have objected, however, on the grounds that access to Haneda is so strictly limited by the U.S.-Japan bilateral air agreement that competing carriers should be given an opportunity to show that they could make better use of the slots than Delta.

United, which has no access to Haneda, formally applied to use Delta’s slots for nonstop service at San Francisco.

American, which is operating New York-Haneda service, applied to add service at Los Angeles.

Delta said the DOT would serve the public interest by allowing it to simply transfer the service to Seattle.

Delta cast itself in the role of the underdog in the U.S.-Japan market, reminding the DOT that it is the “sole network challenger” to the Star and Oneworld alliances that have antitrust immunity in the market and whose Japanese partners, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, use Tokyo as a “protected hub.”

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