WASHINGTON – Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken met late Thursday with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a last-minute attempt to save Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport’s nonstop flight to Japan.
“I made the point that we may not have the warmest climate, but that is why it’s really important to us to retain our businesses, and that means having a good education system and a good transportation system,” Klobuchar said after the meeting. “We have other things to sell … and one of them is that we have a direct flight to Japan, and we don’t want to lose that.”
Delta Air Lines, which inherited the route in its 2009 merger with Northwest Airlines, said last month that the route — popular with Twin Cities business travelers — is at risk because of changes at a Tokyo airport being negotiated by U.S. and Japanese authorities.
The two countries are discussing whether to open 10 more slots for U.S. airlines at one of Tokyo’s airports, but Delta says its rivals, American and United airlines, would benefit more from such a move because both have a Japanese partner airline.
Negotiations between the two countries start next week, so the Thursday meeting was rushed onto the busy calendars of the state’s three leading politicians, as well as Foxx’s, so they could make their case. Earlier this week, most of Minnesota’s congressional delegation signed a letter to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, asking for a meeting on the issue. McDonough is a native of Stillwater.
“We stressed Delta’s great importance to Minnesota and the urgent necessity that Delta be treated fairly in any new agreement with the Japanese government,” Dayton said. “The secretary gave us no assurances, but I believe our conversation today emphasized Delta’s great importance to the state of Minnesota.”
Franken said a viable, trustworthy transportation system is part of the reason businesses locate and succeed in Minnesota.
“That’s why I’m pressing the Obama administration,” he said. “This meeting with the transportation secretary is the latest step in that effort.”