The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has revealed it will provide a completely fresh perspective over the allocation of new route licences to provide Transpacific flights into Tokyo Haneda, the airlines’ preferred gateway into the Japanese capital due to its location closer to the city centre.
The newly available daytime slots at Haneda herald a potential transformation in US air service to the Japanese capital and the regulator wants to start with a blank canvas so it can look at all options and explore opportunities for alternative US cities that are capable of supporting commercially viable service to Tokyo.
In its docket confirming its proposed ‘2016 US-Haneda Combination Services Allocation Proceeding’ the DOT said daytime access to Haneda has “the potential to significantly expand the number of US cities that can support commercially viable” Haneda service, in contrast to what is economically viable with nighttime slots. Considering the substantially changed circumstances, the Department believes that the public interest warrants a “completely fresh look” at the US-Haneda market to determine which allocations would best serve the public interest.
Delegations representing the governments of the United States and Japan announced in Tokyo last month that they had successfully negotiated an amendment to their Open Skies agreement. The proposed amendment is significant as it provides for the first time since 1978 daytime services by US and Japanese air carriers between the United States and Tokyo International Airport (Haneda), the busiest in Japan and the closest to downtown Tokyo.
Under the current agreement, US airlines have a total of four slot pairs (four arrivals and four departures) for service to and from Haneda, which are now restricted to use during nighttime hours. Under the proposed amendment, these four slot pairs would be transferred to daytime hours. In addition, a fifth daytime slot pair for scheduled service to and from Haneda would be added and US airlines would be able to continue operating one nighttime slot pair.
The agreement makes slots available for scheduled combination service by the designated airlines of each country to a total of five pairs of slots during daytime hours between 06:00 and 22:55 hours (local time) and one pair of slots during late night and early morning hours between 22:00 and 06:55 hours (local time). These slots cannot be used for all-cargo service and airlines may operate no more than 600 one-way charter flights per year.
The new allocations will come into effect from summer 2017, but until then the DOT has ruled that the existing nightime licences awarded to American Airlines (from Los Angeles), Delta Air Lines (also from Los Angeles), Hawaiian Airlines (from Honolulu) and United Airlines (from San Francisco) will be temporarily approved for daytime access for the forthcoming two scheduled periods.
This ruling has been based on the limited time available for US carriers to file applications with Japanese authorities for take-off and landing slot times at Haneda airport for the forthcoming winter traffic season that begins October 30, 2016. This deadline is May 20, 2016 long ahead of its own anticipated ruling on the licencing process.
To preserve an ongoing US carrier presence in the US-Haneda market, to avoid a situation where Japanese carriers could provide own-metal services during the forthcoming winter season whereas US carriers could not… the Department tentatively finds that there is an immediate public need for the grant of temporary US-Haneda daytime slot-pair authority,” said Susan McDermott, deputy assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs at the DOT in the registered documentation.
In the meantime, the DOT will conduct a formal allocation process where interested US carriers would submit proposed routes and justifications. Those routes would be evaluated based on their potential to “maximise public benefits,” the DOT said, with no preference given to incumbents currently serving the airport. Airlines have until April 12 to submit applications for the long-term allocation process.