A bipartisan, unanimous push from Minnesota’s congressional delegation provides solid rationale for why the U.S. Department of Transportation should grant a request from Delta Air Lines to fly from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.
The Haneda Airport is significantly closer to downtown Tokyo than Delta’s current destination, the Narita Airport. The Minnesota delegation’s letter urges Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to give “full and fair” consideration of Delta’s request for three of the five daytime Haneda slots the DOT will award to U.S. carriers. (Delta and American currently operate a nighttime Los Angeles-Haneda flight, and United, American and Hawaiian Airlines are also competing for daytime access to Haneda.)
If Delta gets one daytime slot, it will go to Los Angeles. But if it gets two, MSP is next on the list. (Atlanta would get a third slot under Delta’s plan.) Delta’s current MSP to Tokyo service flies to Narita, but that route would be less competitive should rivals fly to the more convenient Haneda. Keeping Delta competitive is critical as Minnesota strives to be competitive in an increasingly globalized economy.
“Access to growing Asian markets is particularly important to Minnesota businesses, including 17 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in our state,” the letter said. “In 2015 employees from just 25 businesses in Minnesota took more than 10,000 flights from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Tokyo. Minnesota competes to attract businesses by creating a positive business climate based on good governance, a strong workforce and world-class infrastructure. Losing the only nonstop flight connection to Asia would damage Minnesota’s competitiveness.”
And it’s not just Minnesota: Many in the Midwest and beyond rely on Delta’s MSP connection. The U.S. government should go to great lengths not to jeopardize an entire region’s existing business necessity.
And robust competition is in America’s best interest. American and United already benefit from partnerships with Japanese airlines, and edging Delta out would risk the benefits of three U.S. carriers competing.
The “good governance” listed in the delegation’s letter is exemplified by this effort. Even in these deeply divisive times, congressional cohesion can be a force multiplier that can benefit the state and region.
“We try to do everything together we can,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in describing the congressional delegation’s effort in an interview with an editorial writer. “Instead of just having one member trying to claim credit and get ahead of everyone, we figure that in these highly polarized times, our power comes from working across party lines — we get power out of doing that in Washington.”
The bipartisan collaboration on behalf of Delta should be applauded. If it’s successful, Minnesota and its residents — not just the airline — will benefit.