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Delta withdraws Singapore service from 22 September 2019 after decades of operations

Delta will be terminating its Singapore-Tokyo Narita service from 22 September 2019 onwards, as it rejigs its Asia Pacific network.

This is after several decades of operations by Delta, as well as its predecessor, Northwest Airlines.

In a media release issued by Delta on the enhancements the airline was making to its Tokyo-Haneda operations, it said:

As part of its long-term Asia-Pacific network strategy, Delta will also adjust its network of flights beyond Narita. Effective March 2020, the carrier will suspend its NRT-MNL service and launch new daily ICN-MNL service operated by Delta. Serving Manila through Seoul will offer our customers superior connectivity via our industry-leading trans-Pacific hub in Seoul with our JV partner Korean Air.

While Delta will suspend Narita-Singapore service beginning Sept. 22, 2019, Delta customers can continue to reach Singapore – and more than 80 other destinations throughout Asia – through Seoul-Incheon via the airline’s partnership with Korean Air.

Delta Airlines, 9 August 2019

What led to this?

Delta and its predecessor Northwest Airlines has long used Tokyo-Narita as its Asia Pacific base, as it’s strategically located at the doorstep of Asia from U.S. At its height, Delta served 10 Asia destinations from Tokyo, including Beijing, Taipei, Manila, Bangkok and Singapore.

But in the new era of joint ventures, Delta got left out of the game when United and American Airlines tied up with ANA and JAL respectively, leveraging each other’s extensive networks in their regions to connect Asia to US via Japan.

On top of that, the use of Tokyo-Haneda airport has also been liberated for foreign carriers, albeit to a very limited extent, with four U.S. carriers sharing only six pairs of slots at Haneda. This worked well for the two pairs of U.S.-Japanese airlines joint ventures, because the U.S. carriers could simply work within the limits imposed on them and leave it to the Japanese carriers to fill the rest of the gaps.

With the increasing preference for Tokyo-Haneda over Tokyo-Narita by customers, Delta found it difficult to maintain its traditional hub at the Narita base.

What is Delta’s Asia Pacific strategy?

With Delta left out of a JV partner in Japan, it has gone over to South Korea and hooked up with Korean Air, a long-time Skyteam alliance partner. With the Singapore-Tokyo Narita service canned, Delta customers will now rely on Korean Air’s services to bring them to Incheon, before continuing their journey to the U.S. on Delta.

Tokyo-Haneda airport will also be giving more slots for U.S. carriers from next March onwards. In total, U.S. airlines will be able to operate up to 18 daily round trips to and from Haneda Airport, up from six today. Delta has will be taking up seven out of the 18 available pairs, to be the largest U.S. carrier operating to Tokyo-Haneda, and allowing it to shift all of its flights between Tokyo and the U.S. to Haneda Airport and ceasing all services to Narita.

Henceforth, Delta will be relying on its fairly new joint venture partnership with Korean Air to serve the Asian market, effectively moving its Asian hub to Incheon. This will allow Delta to focus on flying from U.S. to key north Asian cities, while letting Korean Air bring its customers onwards to other Asian destinations.

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