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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hawaiian presses for 2nd Japan route

By Alan Yonan Jr.
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Hawaiian Airlines plans to use its new Airbus A330-200 on its Honolulu-Haneda route, for which it has tentatively won approval from the Department of Transportation.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaiian Airlines, which was tentatively awarded one of two routes it requested between Honolulu and Tokyo's Haneda Airport, yesterday asked federal officials to reconsider its application for the second route.

Hawaiian was one of three domestic carriers chosen by the Department of Transportation on May 7 to fly four routes from the U.S. to Haneda. Delta Airlines was awarded two routes and American Airlines one.

A new daily Hawaiian Airlines flight between Honolulu and Haneda airport would help offset the loss of air seats caused by Japan Airlines' shift to smaller aircraft on its Hawai'i routes.

Lawyers for Hawaiian Airlines said DOT officials correctly recognized that allowing Hawaiian to fly to Japan for the first time would bring valuable economic benefits to Hawai'i, which welcomes more Japanese visitors than any other market.

"While Hawaiian is grateful for the tentative award of one slot pair for its first choice ... the Department did not address Hawaiian's second proposal for a second daily flight between Honolulu and Haneda," the lawyers wrote in the six-page letter.

"Awarding Hawaiian two slots would allow it to have the economies of scale to compete as a significant player in the U.S.-Tokyo market instead of having to compete from a position of relative weakness against entrenched incumbents," the letter continued.

"In awarding Hawaiian one slot pair, the Department recognized that introducing a new entrant is important, but it did not discuss the economies of scale that would enable a new entrant to offer a more robust alternative to the alliance carriers."

Delta was approved to fly from Los Angeles and Detroit to Haneda, while American received approval to fly from New York to Haneda. The Honolulu-Tokyo market is larger than the other three.

In approving American's application, the DOT emphasized the need for American to have greater strength in competing against other alliance carriers in the New York-Tokyo market, Hawaiian said.

"The Department did not undertake any such analysis with regard to Hawaiian's Honolulu-Haneda proposal," Hawaiian's lawyers wrote.

The DOT also cited Los Angeles' market size in awarding one of Delta's two routes "but failed to weigh that factor in its consideration of Hawaiian's second Honolulu-Haneda proposal," according to the letter.

"All of the other markets selected are significantly smaller than Honolulu-Tokyo. Given that fact, a measured consideration of Hawaiian's second Honolulu-Haneda flight by Hawaiian, as compared to the other chosen gateways, would have resulted in a decision to award Hawaiian an additional slot pair for its second Honolulu-Haneda flight instead of awarding slot pairs to other carriers for service from gateways that provide fewer passengers and far less economic benefits."

Yesterday was the deadline to file objections to the DOT's tentative ruling on the Haneda routes. A final decision is expected in one week.