Delta will stop flying to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) airport by March of 2020 as it shifts all of its U.S. flights to the more conveniently located Tokyo-Haneda (HND).
The writing for Delta's impending exit from Tokyo's “international” airport has been on the wall for months – if not years. The airline has shifted flights from the U.S. over to Haneda bit-by-bit. Delta got the tentative OK in May to shift its five remaining Narita flights – from Atlanta (ATL), Seattle (SEA), Detroit (DTW), Portland (PDX), and Honolulu (HNL) – and instead fly into Haneda.
And now, that approval is final, Delta announced on Friday. When the last moves are made in March 2020, Delta will have seven daily flights into Tokyo-Haneda – more than any other U.S. carrier. The airline already flies into Haneda from both Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) and Los Angeles (LAX).
“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,” Steve Sear, Delta's executive vice president of Global Sales, said in a statement. “It’s a win for our customers, giving them much quicker access to the city center, and it complements our overall strategy of growth across the Pacific.”
But Delta's exit from Narita will have some spillover. Namely, the airline will stop flying between Tokyo-Narita (NRT) and Singapore (SIN) as of Sept. 22. There's simply no reason for Delta to continue flying this popular “fifth-freedom” route – the name for a flight that isn't between an airline's hub – as it stops flying into Narita.
That doesn't mean it will be impossible for Delta flyers to get to Singapore. The airline will instead route travelers through Seoul-Incheon (ICN), where they can travel on to Singapore with its joint venture partner, Korean Air. Delta is increasingly leaning on its close partner airlines like Korean to connect travelers onward after a long-haul flight.
Delta is also stopping its flights between Tokyo-Narita (NRT) and Manila (MNL). Instead, it will fly a fifth-freedom route from ICN to MNL starting in March 2020.
These moves come as other airlines also launch more service into Haneda (HND). American, United, and Hawaiian Airlines also received regulatory approval to begin new flights to Haneda.
Say sayonara to Narita, Delta flyers.
Delta's decision to abandon Narita – a legacy hub from Northwest Airlines, which Delta swallowed up a decade ago – makes sense on many counts.
For starters, it's much easier for travelers to get into the heart of Tokyo from Haneda than Narita. Narita is an hour-plus away from the city, while Haneda requires just a short subway or Uber ride. For business travelers and tourists alike, it's just in a better spot.
But the biggest factor here is that Delta is lacking what both American and United have in Tokyo – a strong airline partner. American can connect its passengers elsewhere in Asia on Japan Airlines, while United can put travelers on flights with All Nippon Airways (ANA).
Delta doesn't have that option. So if most Delta travelers are heading straight to Tokyo, it makes much more sense to bring them to Haneda as Delta routes passengers heading onward into Asia through Seoul-Incheon (ICN), where Korean Air can do the rest of the work.
Here's a look at what Delta's service to Tokyo will look like once these moves are final:
- Atlanta (ATL) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND): using Delta’s refreshed Boeing 777-200ER, featuring Delta One Suites, the new Delta Premium Select cabin and the widest Main Cabin seats of Delta’s international fleet.
- Detroit (DTW) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND): using Delta’s newest Airbus A350-900 aircraft which also features the new Delta One Suite.
- Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND): on Delta's refreshed Boeing 777-200ER, which have Delta One Suites, the new Delta Premium Select cabin and the widest Main Cabin seats of Delta’s international fleet. Read our review of this flight in Delta One suites.
- Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND): using Delta’s newest Airbus A350-900 aircraft which also features the new Delta One Suite.
- Seattle (SEA) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND): using Delta’s upcoming new international widebody aircraft, the Airbus A330-900neo which will feature the Delta One Suites, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin.
- Honolulu (HNL) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND): using Delta’s Boeing 767-300ER, which are currently being retrofitted with a new business class seat and interior throughout the plane.
- Portland (PDX) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND): using Delta’s older Airbus A330-200 aircraft, which features 34 lie-flat seats with direct aisle access in Delta One, 32 in Delta Comfort+ and 168 seats in the Main Cabin.
If there's one drawback to this move, its the disappearance of Delta's flight from Tokyo to Singapore. We've found plenty of cheap flights from the U.S. to Singapore using that flight with our Thrifty Traveler Premium service.
Travelers can still get there by going through Seoul instead, but only time will tell if Korean Air keeps up the flood of cheap flights.
It's mostly good news for Delta flyers that the airline will exit Narita and instead focus on Haneda in Tokyo.
Lead photo courtesy of Delta via Flickr