All three of the US majors launched a more or less coordinated assault on Japanese aviation authorities this week.
United, Delta and American Airlines all applied for around 30 different or complimentary route authorisations – many of them into the much sought after Tokyo Haneda International.
Haneda is as central to Tokyo as you can get, with the main international airport at Narita some 40 miles north east of the city centre.
Slots at Haneda are very sought after, but while several international routes are served from there – including British Airways – who also fly from Narita, it’s mostly a domestic operation.
The US majors are also looking at several other cities for direct flights as Japanese business ties are on the up following the spat with China, and tourism is booming.
One of the key cities is Las Vegas which airlines believe has a major draw for the Japanese, whose access to gambling is limited.
From Seattle to Denver, Los Angeles to Las Vegas, the competition to seize routes is serious business. American has a slight advantage with its “Joint Pacific Base” it shares with JAL and they are both in Oneworld.
Delta and United have both fought legal battles with American and the DoT over access to routes and defining what right one has to hold the route if it doesn’t fully use it.
In any event all three will be looking to challenge any appearance of favouritism towards any of the others and the battle is on.