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American swaps JFK-Narita for JFK-Haneda

According to numerous reports at various travel sites, US carrier American Airlines will be ending flights between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), and Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, while simultaneously resuming flights between JFK and Tokyo’s other airport, commonly known as Haneda. Indeed, inventory on AA.com reflects these changes, as do other booking engines.

Flights to Haneda will resume on June 1st, 2012, with flights to Narita ending on the same date. JFK-Narita will continue to be served by American’s OneWorld partner Japan Airlines (JAL), with whom American has Antitrust Immunity for all trans-Pacific routes. Antitrust immunity allows American and JAL to function as a single carrier on routes across the Pacific, sharing all revenues, costs, and profits.

American had previously received approval from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) in June of last year to delay its resumption of JFK-Haneda to June 1st, 2012 . JFK-Haneda had been temporarily stopped by American in the face of the March 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan. The carrier has continued to operate JFK-Narita over the past year. Both services were operated with 247 Boeing 777-200ERs in 3-class configurations.

The move comes after American previously ended nonstop service to India with the cancellation of Chicago-Delhi being announced earlier this month. They have also cancelled a slew of other routes and frequencies as part of a broader 3% pull-down in capacity for the first and second quarters of 2012 as the carrier grapples with Ch.11 bankruptcy proceedings. Cuts have been, to an extent concentrated in Chicago (and Dallas due to the end of turboprop flights there by American Eagle), though the net effect is essentially a drop in the bucket at American’s second largest hub. See the table below for a full list of announced route cuts since AMR’s bankruptcy announcement in early December.

Routes Cut
Chicago-Calgary
Chicago-Delhi
Chicago-Tri Cities
Dallas-Augusta (GA)
Dallas-Burbank
Dallas-Fayetteville
New York JFK-Tokyo Narita
Los Angeles-Boise
Los Angeles-San Juan
Miami-Fort Myers
Miami-Savannah
Miami-Valencia (VN)

American’s switch to Haneda was driven at least in part, by their Trans-Pacific joint venture with JAL. By reducing capacity on the JFK-Narita sector, American and JAL are able to retain more pricing power in a competitive market. Furthermore, they can reduce wasteful overlap of capacity and allow American to more effectively utilize the 777 dedicated to that route.

There is however, a far more tenuous rationale for the reinstating of services to Haneda. When international flights to Haneda were announced in 2009, it was hailed as a great win for business travelers; who would get access to the more conveniently located Haneda. However , the restrictive slot timings (international flights can only operate between 10 pm and 8 am) meant that most foreign carriers could not effectively time their flights, especially on long haul flights. This change in particular affected US carriers flying from the East Coast, and American was no exception. The following is American’s planned flight schedule into Haneda:

AA 135 D: JFK-HND 1855-2215 772
AA 134 D: HND-JFK 0655-0640 772

On the outgoing side, the flight departs from JFK in late evening, which is good for travelers who can get a full day of work in before the flight. However, the 10:15 arrival poses numerous problems. Tired flyers will have to force themselves to stay awake during the entire JFK-Haneda flights so that they can fall asleep upon arrival in Tokyo and prevent jet lag. They’ll lose a whole night in Tokyo (as opposed to arriving in the morning to a full business day), perhaps getting stranded at the airport due to the end of train service to Tokyo around 12, and even connections are limited. Haneda is a large operation for partner JAL, and part of the rationale for serving Haneda is better tapping into JAL’s large network of domestic and international flights there. But American’s late arrival forestalls any such connections; the only possible ones are an 11:00 flight to Singapore, and a flight after midnight to Bangkok. So it will be interesting to see whether American can make service to Haneda work this time around, given all of the constraints.

About Vinay Bhaskara

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