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Earlier this year, the United States and Japan successfully negotiated an amendment to their Open Skies Agreement, thereby creating new daytime services for airlines flying between the US and Tokyo International Airport (Haneda).

Open Skies are international policies designed to promote competition by liberalizing the rules and regulations surrounding the aviation industry. They affect a range of air services, such as flight schedules for passenger carriers.

In a press briefing back in February—when the agreement was reached—John Kirby, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Public Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, said: “This amendment would provide, for the first time since 1978, daytime services by US and Japanese air carriers between the United States and [Haneda Airport], the busiest [airport] in Japan and the closest to downtown Tokyo.”

Under the proposed agreement, which has yet to be ratified by both governments, existing nighttime slot pairs that US airlines operate between Haneda and the US—of which there are four—will be moved to daytime hours. Meanwhile, a fifth daytime slot pair for scheduled services to and from Haneda Airport is to be added, and US carriers will continue to operate a nighttime slot pair, the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPCA), an industry consultancy, reported in February.

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GOOD NEWS
A number of US carriers welcomed news of the agreement. Speaking exclusively to The Journal, Erwan Perhirin, vice president, Asia–Pacific at American Airlines, said: “We very much welcome the further opening of air services between the US and Japan. We think that having daytime flights to Haneda—which is a critical airport for both Japanese and American consumers—will bring great benefits for customers.”

Perhirin, who is also chair of the Transportation and Logistics Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ), added: “Haneda is convenient. It is the preferred airport for a key set of customers. The agreement means that there will be increased competition and increased options for consumers.”

Alison Espley, managing director, Japan and Pacific Sales for United Airlines, was of a similar opinion. In an interview with The Journal, Espley commented: “United Airlines believes the switch to daytime will enhance the benefits our customers are already receiving by this flight.

“The daytime schedule provides for more convenient arrival and departure times at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and will allow additional points behind our San Francisco hub to gain a one-stop connection service to Haneda via San Francisco.”

Kiyo Weiss, Air Canada’s general manager for Japan, told The Journal: “Air Canada has been serving Haneda from Toronto for two years now, and it has been extremely popular with US-bound business travelers. They can clear US immigration in Toronto without queueing like they do at US gateways. They do not even have to pick up baggage until the final destination.”

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The Journal also spoke to a frequent flyer who is familiar with the industry, but who isn’t authorized to speak about the matter. They pointed out some of the benefits for travelers—especially long-haul travelers and frequent flyers—that arise from the deal.

“The agreement could make a difference to airport transfers when you consider the cost of a taxi from Haneda to the city [which is affordable] compared with taking one from Narita [which can be costly].”

“Taxi transport is ideal, point-to-point, but from Narita you’ll probably take a bus or a train, when what you really want to do is sit quietly on your own and go straight to your meeting, hotel, or home.” Narita is about 60 kilometers from central Tokyo, whereas Haneda is only 14 kilometers from the capital’s center.

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NEW NORMAL
Expected to begin as early as this fall, the new flight arrangements are likely to affect a wide range of services and providers.

Washington DC, New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, and Guam are among 22 US destinations to be affected by the changes, CAPCA reported in February. In Japan, seven airports will see changes: Narita, Haneda, Osaka Kansai, Nagoya Chubu, Sapporo, Sendai, and Fukuoka.

A number of airlines serving US–Japan routes are also to be affected by the agreement, including three Japanese ones: Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, and Nippon Cargo Airlines. US airlines that serve Japan, and are covered by the agreement, include United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, and Hawaiian Airlines, according to CAPCA.

Representatives from Delta told The Journal: “Delta applied to the Department of Transportation for the routes we believe are in the best interest of our customers and will provide both the greatest direct and connecting opportunities from the US to Haneda. We will assess the awards for all carriers after the Department of Transportation announces its decisions, then finalize our Japan network strategy.”

Tokyo International Air Terminal Corporation, a private company that operates and manages the land side of the international terminal at Haneda Airport, was approached by The Journal but could not provide a comment—pending ratification of the agreement.

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John Amari is a writer and editor from the UK who specializes in articles on startups, entrepreneurs, science, tech, and business.
The agreement means that there will be increased competition and increased options for consumers.