United Moves Quickly To Secure New Service For Tokyo Haneda

United Airlines Boeing 777
Credit: United Airlines

United Airlines is seeking to obtain a slot pair for Tokyo Haneda airport being relinquished by Delta Air Lines and a slot pair held by Hawaiian Airlines to launch flights from Houston and Guam to Tokyo Haneda.

The Chicago-based airline told the U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) in a Sept. 25 filing it could launch the service as early as Dec. 1 if it receives the final award for the flights.

Dormancy waivers granted to airlines during the coronavirus pandemic that allowed operators to postpone launching routes to Haneda expire Oct. 28.

Earlier in 2023, Delta asked the DOT to grant airlines flexibility to use the slot pairs to operate to Haneda from any U.S. market rather than the cities assigned to each airline in the 2019 slot allocation. DOT rejected Delta’s request. United was critical of Delta’s proposal, concluding Delta was “gaming the system.”

Delta on Sept. 22 informed DOT it would not utilize the slot it holds for flights from Portland to Haneda. Now United is asking for that slot pair to launch daily flights from its hub at Houston Intercontinental Airport to Haneda.

United has also applied for five weekly frequencies from Guam to Haneda using a nighttime only slot pair held by Hawaiian for service from Kona/Honolulu to Haneda. United expressed to DOT that Hawaiian has shown no plans to operate the service.

“Should Hawaiian consolidate flying to their two daytime slots, United would request the final two weekly nighttime frequencies,” the airline told DOT.

United said that while it understands the devastation of the Maui wildfire tragedy has impacted travel in Hawaii, Hawaiian was not fully utilizing its Haneda slots prior to that event. “There is no indication based on its pricing and schedule loads that it was going to fully utilize the nighttime only slot pair,” United said.

Hawaiian has until Oct. 1 to clarify its intention for that slot. However, United said that while it remains deeply sympathetic to the devastation in Maui, the company “does not believe the circumstances warrant Hawaiian special flexibility or alleviation from the conditions associated with the slot pairs, should Hawaiian attempt to suggest so.”

United said its application “reflects its experience in and commitment to the U.S.–Japan market and will ensure that the Haneda slots are utilized to their fullest extent for the traveling public.” 

Lori Ranson

Lori covers North American and Latin airlines for Aviation Week and is also a Senior Analyst for CAPA - Centre for Aviation.