Delta Toyko-Narita Hub Death Watch: 3 More Routes Dropped

Delta has announced 3 more routes to be dropped this fall as it further cuts the once-proud Northwest hub at Tokyo-Narita:

  • New York JFK – NRT
  • Osaka – NRT
  • Bangkok – NRT

Delta once again will  have no nonstop NYC service to Asia and also wipes Bangkok off its route map.

Delta NRT

In the Executive Q&A: Delta committed to Asia despite Haneda agreement, Vinay Dube, Senior Vice President – Asia Pacific states that service to Narita will continue from Seattle, Portland, Detroit and Atlanta, while Los Angeles and Minneapolis will shift to Tokyo-Haneda, subject to DOT approval.

The only Asia destinations left will be Shanghai, Taipei, Singapore and Manila, along with the primarily Japanese leisure travel routes to Hawaii, Guam, Saipan and Palau.

Much of the rest of the interview is continued griping and tough talk about Delta’s view of the regulatory and competitive situation in Tokyo-Haneda. Cranky Flier and his thoughtful readers dissect the move, noting that Delta talks about a bright future in Asia, not Japan.

This one is sentimental for me.

I grew up as a traveler connecting in Narita on trips between the US and China as student, then young professional. Northwest had a strong brand in Japan and Delta tossed it in the bin. Their failed attempt to bring JAL to SkyTeam during its bankruptcy was the only big push they have made in Japan.

Delta’s frenemy relationship with Korean Air is not smooth for customers and the new bet on China Eastern, and to a lesser degree, China Southern, underestimates the challenge to get those airlines and airports functioning at a global service level.

Flight delays alone should make anyone think twice of putting a hub in Shanghai. You never know when the military will shut down airspace or a storm roll through.

China Eastern flights apparently are not no smoking or it isn’t smoke if the crew says it isn’t. 8 years of living in China and plenty trips since I find their airlines fine, as a Chinese speaker more tolerant or accustomed to the country. Just trying to accomplish an international to international connection in China is a rough experience.

I loved the Northwest/Delta Narita hub.

Narita connections are a delight. Japan, after all, is Japan. The camaraderie of the Asia flights arriving together brought all kinds of casual interactions with fellow passengers. Here comes Manila! There’s Beijing! Longer connections provide a quick temple or shopping stop in quaint Narita town.

Returning to the US meant many passengers were saved the US port of first entry flight connection hassle. When I return to the US I try to have my first US arrival port be my last.

The past several years when Delta was trying to push Seattle, and even longer for Detroit, on business trips to Shanghai I would do anything I could to schedule a day that JFK-NRT-PVG was competitively priced. Rarely it was and flights were often packed. Why would I want to spend 6 hours in a 737 to Seattle, or a grim hop to Detroit, when I could be upstairs on a 747 right out of JFK?

I don’t know the airline economics of it. It is hard to believe a smart airline can’t make Japan work. And it is sad to me to see NRT go.

Rapid Travel Chai newsletter ¦ Twitter ¦ Facebook ¦ Instagram

  • DaninMCI

    Maybe they got tired of hearing Rhapsody in Blue being played on the Muzak in Terminal 1 🙂

  • ted

    I agree. Had a lot of memories at NRT (all good).

  • William Payne

    This post needs to thoroughly edited. Poor grammer or bad sentence construction are begging for a rewrite.

  • @William Payne – nice to meet you, too. I welcome first-time readers. There are admittedly errors that I should have evened out rather than rushing to post when my flight wifi was ending, and have been cleaning up now when back online. It is a difficult balance to get things right versus get things out. No budget for a copy editor.

  • Jig

    @William Payne – perhaps check the spelling on your “grammer” while you get that rewrite done..

  • @Jig – haha, I did not notice that. I have to remind myself that WordPress spell checker only appears when it is in the mood, so I can’t reply on the wavy red lines.

  • Jamie

    Haha @Stefan – or even “rely” on the wavy red lines!