Narita ponders future after Delta’s farewell

Narita International Airport near Tokyo may find it hard to retain its standing as a pan-Asia transport hub after Delta Air Lines Inc. decided to leave.

The U.S. airline plans to transfer all U.S.-Tokyo flights to Tokyo International Airport at Haneda in March 2020, when new routes over the city will increase capacity.

The move by Delta may lead to other airlines reviewing whether to stay at Narita or shift to Haneda, which is closer to central Tokyo, industry sources said.

“It’s shocking. North America routes have been Narita’s advantage,” a local municipal official said of Delta’s decision. Delta used Narita as an Asia hub since the airport opened in 1978, including the period when it was Northwest Airlines before a merger.

The airport’s operator, Narita International Airport Corp., has been taking steps to make it more attractive to airlines, including reducing landing fees. In 2015, it opened a terminal dedicated to low-cost carriers.

Narita is bracing for around 1,073,500 international flight passengers during this year’s peak summer vacation period, which started Friday and ends Sunday.

Akihiko Tamura, president and chief executive officer of Narita International Airport, downplayed the significance of Delta’s withdrawal. “Some leave and others come,” he said.

But Haneda is not Narita’s only rival. It is also facing competition as an Asia hub from Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, Beijing Capital International Airport and Singapore’s Changi Airport.

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