Under a final decision recently announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Delta will become the largest U.S. carrier serving Tokyo’s Haneda airport, with seven daily flights between Haneda and Seattle, Detroit, Atlanta, Honolulu, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Portland. With this change, Delta will transfer its full operation of U.S.-Tokyo services from Narita to Haneda, the city’s closest and most convenient airport, beginning in March 2020 (image - Delta Air Lines)
Narita, opened in 1978, has a troubled history; beset by violent protests against it throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, it was intended to replace the existing airport of Haneda, which had served as Japan’s primary gateway. At the time, Haneda was too small and extremely crowded, both within the terminal and airside on the ramp.
Built on the shore of Tokyo bay, Haneda had been expanded by reclaiming land from the bay but as an expensive procedure, land-based airport expansion was preferred. This however led to the violent protests over the construction of Narita and the scale of the protests has meant that even today, Narita is still incomplete and has a runway and taxiway capacity problem. Small pockets of land are still owned by locals and protesters who refuse to sell and this has prevented full development of the airport. Narita’s distance from Tokyo, some 41 miles, also presented long-standing difficulties.
Even so, Japan Air Lines, All Nippon and Northwest all moved their operations to Narita, with the airport becoming a major hub for the US carrier. Haneda however, never closed. After Narita opened, it continued to be used for domestic flights and remained busier than its new cousin.
Above: Having been completely rebuilt and expanded further into Tokyo bay, despite the cost, Haneda is enjoying a renaissance and is still the preferred airport for many travellers to Japan’s capital city, being only nine miles from the centre – ironically the reason for Narita’s development to begin with. The International Terminal is just out of shot to the left and is big enough to occupy most of the land taken up by the original airport, part of which can still be seen at the top left of the image (omio - wikimedia commons)
Referring to Northwest Airlines, with whom Delta merged in 2008, Steve Sear, President - International and Executive Vice President Global Sales, said: “We have proudly served Japan for more than 70 years and our commitment to our Tokyo legacy remains strong. This new service is a game-changer for Delta’s ability to offer competitive and comprehensive access to the city, which is one of the world’s most important business markets. It’s a win for our customers, giving them much quicker access to the city centre, and it complements our overall strategy of growth across the Pacific.”
As part of its long-term Asia-Pacific network strategy, Delta will also adjust its network of flights beyond Narita. Effective March 2020, the carrier will suspend its Tokyo Narita-Manila service and launch new daily Seoul ICN-Manila service. Serving Manila through Seoul will offer customers superior connectivity via the airline’s trans-Pacific hub in Seoul with partner carrier Korean Air.
While Delta will suspend Narita-Singapore service beginning September. 22, 2019, the airline’s customers can continue to reach Singapore – and more than 80 other destinations throughout Asia – through Seoul-Incheon.
These moves are contingent upon securing viable operational slots.
All Delta aircraft between the U.S. and Tokyo feature the carrier’s premium Delta One service, which includes a dedicated in-cabin flight attendant; a 180-degree flat-bed seat with direct-aisle access; extra-wide inflight entertainment screens; and seasonally rotating, chef-designed Delta One menus with the option to pre-select first choice of entrée, paired with wines hand-selected by Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson.
Aircraft on flights between Haneda and Seattle, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Los Angeles and Atlanta also feature Delta Premium Select, Delta’s newest cabin service that the airline says brings the “premium” back to premium economy with more space including a wider seat with additional recline and leg rest; elevated service including pre-departure beverage service; and distinguished amenities including a wider in-flight entertainment screen.
All cabins of service on flights between the Haneda and the U.S. will include complimentary meals, snacks and beverages, including meals for all customers created in partnership with Michelin consulting chef Norio Ueno. This November, Delta is launching a first-of-its-kind bistro-style international Main Cabin experience featuring welcome cocktails, hot-towel service and mix-and-match options for premium appetizers and larger entrees.
All seats on all flights from the U.S. to Tokyo-Haneda will offer personal entertainment systems with free entertainment, free mobile messaging, high-capacity overhead bins, Wi-Fi, upgraded amenity kits and more. More international onboard enhancements are coming soon, like refreshed ear buds and headsets, to further demonstrate the airline’s commitment to creating a best-in-class experience for those who fly with the airline.
Below: Delta may no longer fly the former Northwest Boeing 747-400s, but the type, along with NWA's earlier 747-200s, gave sterling service across the Pacific. At one time, six or seven NWA's 747s could be seen on the ground at Tokyo (image - Delta Air Lines)