Last updated Feb. 17, 1:37 p.m.

Delta Air Lines Inc. is vying for four new daily flights to Tokyo‘s Haneda airport made available to American carriers under the U.S.-Japan “Open Skies” agreement reached in December.

Atlanta-based Delta applied Feb. 16 with the U.S. Transportation Department for nonstop service between Haneda and Seattle, Honolulu, Los Angeles and Detroit, starting Oct. 31. Four other U.S. airlines – including rivals United Airlines and American Airlines – also promptly applied for service. Delta is the only carrier seeking all four slots. 

Haneda, primarily a domestic airport, has been closed to American carriers since 1978, but it is expected to increase international links when a fourth runway is completed in October. Delta and its competitors see Haneda as a growth market for trans-Pacific business travel, as it’s significantly closer to Tokyo’s downtown business district than Narita, the city’s main international airport, news services reported.  

The Open Skies treaty eases capacity and pricing restrictions and removes limits on the number of flights carriers can operate between the countries. It also allows carriers to form marketing alliances and paves the way for code-sharing programs by which partners can sell tickets on each other’s flights. The text of the pact was approved Dec. 12 but it won’t go into effect until large carriers in both countries gain antitrust immunity for proposed partnership, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

Delta, a member of the SkyTeam alliance of airlines, has no Japanese partners. The Star and Oneworld alliances both have partners operating at Haneda. In a news release, Delta argued that granting it new service would lead to healthy competition.

“Enabling Delta to enter Haneda is critical to advancing airline competition in Tokyo, particularly considering the strong presence that the Star and Oneworld alliance carriers already enjoy at this important and tightly controlled airport,” said Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s executive vice president of network and revenue management.

In an effort to boost its profile in one of Asia’s most important aviation markets, Delta in late 2009 began wooing Japan Airlines Corp., the nation’s struggling flagship carrier. Delta offered more than $1 billion in capital incentives to lure JAL away from its partnership with American Airlines and the Oneworld alliance of carriers. 

After a Delta-American battle, JAL sided decided not to defect from its longtime partner. American and JAL have filed for antitrust immunity to boost flights between the U.S. and Asia, the companies have said. 

Delta currently offers flights between Narita airport and 11 U.S. cities, including multiple nonstops from Atlanta

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...