Direct flight from Miami to Tokyo could be in cards — if antitrust immunity granted
By Zachary S. Fagenson
If US and Japanese governments give American Airlines and its partner Japan Airlines antitrust immunity, it may open the door to a direct flight between Miami and Tokyo.
"With the possibility of American and JAL getting antitrust" immunity, said Miami International Airport Director of Marketing Chris Mangos, "[Airports] like MIA hoping for Tokyo service to evolve ask does this process bring that closer?"
Foundering Japan Airlines declared bankruptcy in January and this month opted to stick with its Oneworld Alliance partner American Airlines, receiving about $1.4 billion in return. The Asian carrier was also being courted by Delta Air Lines and its SkyTeam Group to the tune of about $1 billion.
Both airlines are now applying for antitrust immunity, which would allow the two to share pricing and scheduling information, booking services, and marketing and corporate information.
Immunity would also expand the Open Skies Agreement, an aviation agreement whose routes run back to the days after World War II and to this day only permits United Airlines and Delta to fly unrestricted into Tokyo and beyond. Other carriers must petition both their home country's government and the Japanese government for permission to fly into Japan.
Though further negotiations would be needed before American could send passengers further into Asia, it would greatly expand the airline's access to the region.
"American Airlines is limited to five daily departures between the US and Tokyo," said American spokesperson Mary Frances Fagan. "Tokyo is our gateway to North Asia… and the equivalent of passengers [of] two planes are going beyond Tokyo.
"If you're looking at growth and being able to provide the route network that your customers want, you certainly do want a strong Asian route network," she added.
But a continued inability to speak with Japan Airlines will hinder development of that network.
Ms. Fagan, via telephone from Chicago, said an American flight and a Japan Airlines flight leave the city's O'Hare International Airport an hour apart each day.
If the two are allowed to communicate, they may be able to reschedule service to better accommodate more travelers.
But "today we cannot talk to [Japan Airlines]" about anything, she added.
If the partnership gains antitrust immunity, it could also bolster Miami's position as the hub of the Americas.
"It's important for Miami because of our presence here and because it will also help connections through Miami from Latin America that would be traveling to Japan," said Martha Pantin, American's spokesperson in Miami.
Mr. Mangos of the airport said though Miami is the furthest point from Japan in the continental US, Boeing's 777 and 747-400 can make the direct flight.
Yet most of American's US-to-Japan flights depart either Dallas or Chicago.
Miami's chances of getting some of the Latin America-to-Asia traffic, however, will remain unclear until the departments of commerce, justice and transportation sign off on the immunity agreement.
"Our scheduling folks take a look at all options and opportunities," Ms. Fagan said. But "at this point it's too premature."