The US was recently awarded an allocation of 12 new daily services to Tokyo’s Haneda airport. This breakthrough market access agreement will add additional service in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Four US airlines have requested additional service to Haneda and the Department of Transportation (DOT) must decide which of the proposals most serve the public interest.

American Airlines was responsible for four of the 19 requested services--a modest and reasonable submission. We hope to offer our customers Haneda service twice (at different times of the day) from our largest hub in Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW); to add one service (also at a different time) to the service we already operate from Los Angeles (LAX); and to add a brand new and unique service to the largest local market in the US without nonstop Tokyo service--Las Vegas (LAS).

These four requests have considerable merit, which we demonstrated in the carrier-selection proceeding, and American fully intends to operate all of the routes if DOT approves. DFW objectively has the most demand among all gateways that currently don’t have nonstop Haneda service. And operating DFW-Haneda service in the early morning and midafternoon will maximize connectivity for travelers on both ends of their journey. American’s LAX proposal is superior to any other in terms of the connectivity and competition it would provide the West Coast. And demand for LAS daily passengers is greater than several US cities that already enjoy nonstop Haneda service.

In asking only for a measured allocation of the 12 new services, American also recommended something unheard of in these route cases: we acknowledged that some of the requests from our competitors had merit and were also in the public interest. But Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines each argued that all of their proposals should be granted before any of the other applicants’ proposals. We disagree.

United is seeking six of the new Haneda slot pairs—half of the 12 new daily services available to US carriers.

American recognized that each of the applicants submitted proposals that offered diverse and important public benefits. In a subsequent filing, American urged DOT to award each of the applicants its top priorities, saying it would support the grant of each network carrier’s top three priories plus one additional slot pair to Hawaiian.

This concessionary approach by a carrier applicant is unprecedented in DOT competitive route proceedings.

American firmly believes that, given the large number of US-Haneda services available, the public interest standard would best be maximized by a competitively and geographically well-balanced allocation of services among the US applicants, and not, as United proposed, allocating one carrier the lion’s share of these frequencies. The approach outlined by American would maximize the public benefits.

Only American’s LAS-Haneda service proposal involves the introduction of a new, first-time Tokyo service from a new US gateway. All the service proposals by the other applicants are for services from US gateways that already enjoy nonstop Tokyo service. It would be highly unusual for DOT not to award a single new service to a unique US gateway in a competitive route proceeding, especially when 12 service opportunities are available. In our view, which is backed up by many prior DOT decisions in similar route proceedings, new services at new US gateways--and the large economic benefits derived from them--provide important and demonstrable public benefits.

American’s proposal has received broad public support. More than 400 letters were filed in support of American, from diverse stakeholders including federal and state senatorial and congressional members, governors, civic leaders, CEOs of corporations and travel agencies. Just 110 support letters were filed for United, 63 for Delta and 12 for Hawaiian.  

DOT has a very straightforward decision in front of it: make United, already the strongest carrier in the US-Japan and US-Asia markets, even more dominant by allocating it half of the US-Haneda services, or allocate the 12 US-Haneda services between all carriers in a manner that will truly maximize the public benefits, provide the greatest convenience and choices to the traveling public, improve time-of-day options to passengers, expand new connections on both sides of the Pacific, and enhance and balance competition in the US-Japan and US-Asia markets.

American believes the second option is what will best serve public interest and competition.

Nate Gatten is SVP government affairs at American Airlines.