TOKYO — The CEO of Delta Air Lines is urging the Japanese government to open the country's skies to greater competition from foreign airlines.
Richard Anderson said Wednesday that protection of domestic carriers is holding back foreign airlines such as Delta. Japan is a key Asian market for the U.S. airline.
He told a press conference he wants to move Delta's Tokyo base to Haneda Airport from Narita International Airport because Haneda is closer to downtown Tokyo, but the government is creating obstacles.
He cited plane slot restrictions at Haneda and said the government is prioritizing domestic carriers such as All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines.
"I think their measured approach is that they'd like to leave us at the less preferable airport outside of town to advantage the two incumbent flag carriers," said Anderson.
But Hirokazu Kaneko from the Aviation Industries division of the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau said Haneda is at full capacity based on the bureau's calculations.
"We're reaching a point where adding more slots would become an issue of safety," said Kaneko.
Anderson said Delta moved its Tokyo hub to Narita in 1976 at the government's request. Now Delta wants to be based in Haneda again because it is closer to central Tokyo and draws more business. Narita is 68 kilometers (42 miles) from central Tokyo, about three times further away than Haneda.
Anderson said Delta needs 25 additional plane slots to move back.
Haneda will be adding 42 daytime slots for long distance flights in the Spring of 2014.
"Slots in Haneda are extremely valuable because it draws so many travelers so naturally, it's very competitive," said Yoshihisa Akai, head of research at Japan Aviation Management Research. "With so much competition as is, it's unlikely Delta will be able to get all the slots it wants."
Anderson said he will keep voicing his concerns.
"We look forward to the Japanese government opening up the skies, because we do not have open skies in Japan right now," he said.
At the press conference, Anderson also said Delta is open to forming an alliance with a Japanese carrier in the future. In 2010, Japan Airlines spurned Delta's promises of cash and a broad global network to stay in its alliance with American Airlines.
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