|A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-300ER – Image Credit: Delta Air Lines|
As per Airline Route, Atlanta-based full service carrier Delta Air Lines is cancelling its 4 weekly services between Seattle-Tacoma and Osaka-Kansai. The flight, which was scheduled to operate throughout the IATA Winter 2013/14 season with a Boeing 767-300ER, was started in 2010 and will now end November 4th. Over the past three years, the flight has operated using a mix of Boeing 767-300ER and Airbus A330-300 aircraft. The route was served by pre-merger Northwest Airlines using a Douglas DC 10-30. But that flight was canceled in 2001.
Since its merger with Northwest Airlines in 2009, Delta has steadily grown its long haul presence in Seattle (with help from domestic code share partner Alaska Airlines). The carrier now serves six long haul destinations excluding Osaka, and will begin its seventh on 29th March 2014 with new nonstop services to London Heathrow in conjunction with equity partner Virgin Atlantic. At the time of the Northwest merger, Delta only had intercontinental service to Amsterdam, and Tokyo-Narita.
The cancellation of Seattle services marks another stage in the slow decline of long haul services from Osaka-Kansai. Today, Osaka-Kansai is down to 13 flights per week to the mainland – a daily Boeing 787 Dreamliner from San Francisco on United, thrice weekly Boeing 777-300ER to Los Angeles on Thai Airways, and thrice weekly Boeing 747-400 to New York JFK on China Airlines. Osaka-Kansai once had services from Los Angeles on United, Detroit on Northwest, and Dallas-Fort Worth on American (twice). But high airport operating costs thanks to the high construction costs at Kansai rendered much of the service unprofitable. Operating costs are no longer the main challenge. Kansai has reduced its costs sharply since opening (5% in the last year alone), and the airport has even become a favored base for Japanese low cost carriers (LCCs). However, the Kansai area as a whole has stagnated economically in the past few years, and this reduced demand has curtailed possible long haul flights.