Delta Air Lines has gained tentative approval to fly daytime routes to Tokyo's downtown Haneda Airport from both Los Angeles and Minneapolis -- but not from Atlanta.
The announcement Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation comes after Atlanta-based Delta applied for coveted daytime slots for flights to Tokyo Haneda, an airport favored by business travelers because of its proximity to central Tokyo compared to the more-distant Tokyo Narita Airport.
Delta applied for three routes to Haneda, from Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Atlanta.
Delta said it "would have liked to have received consideration for Atlanta service to Haneda." But it said there would be no impact to the route it already flies from Atlanta to Tokyo Narita.
The DOT proposal includes more daytime routes to Tokyo Haneda for Delta than any other U.S. carrier. The other route awards would go to American for Los Angeles-Haneda, Hawaiian for Honolulu-Haneda and United for San Francisco-Haneda.
Delta already flies from Los Angeles to Haneda with a nighttime route.
The DOT nixed the idea of the Atlanta-Tokyo Haneda route, saying Minneapolis would offer less-circuitous connections to a greater portion of the country and offered connectivity from the upper Midwest region.
And, the DOT added, "we do not overlook the potential competitive benefit of awarding a second slot to Delta, the one remaining applicant in the proceeding for the fifth available daytime slot that lacks a Japanese alliance partner."
But the DOT also said it plans to award Delta the Minneapolis-Tokyo Haneda route on condition. If Delta were to deviate from its plans to fly the route, it would lose the slot to American Airlines as a backup carrier for a route from Dallas/Fort Worth.
That's because Delta has struggled with sustaining flights to Tokyo Haneda, when it operated routes from Detroit and Seattle in the past.
The DOT is taking objections to its proposal through Aug. 1, and will consider any objections and responses before finalizing its decision.
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