There are a number of reasons to call Minnesota an attractive destination for global businesses. We have a strong economy, a well-educated workforce and a wonderful quality of life, just to name a few. Another critical factor that entices companies to do business in the region is our connectivity to global markets, particularly Asia.
Currently, Delta Air Lines offers the only nonstop service from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to Tokyo’s Narita Airport. It is a route used frequently by businesses that choose to call Minnesota home. I know that at Thomson Reuters, Tokyo is our No. 3 market, after New York City and London. Just last year, the 20 Minnesota businesses that used this direct route the most frequently used it more than 10,000 times. The route allows Minnesotans to not only travel to Tokyo directly, but also to connect to important business markets throughout Asia — one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. We know that direct international air service enables businesses to locate and flourish in Minnesota.
Unfortunately, recent negotiations between the governments of the U.S. and Japan are putting Minnesota’s only direct flight to Asia at risk. Since 1978, the Japanese government has required all trans-Pacific flights to and from Tokyo to operate at the Narita airport (about 90 minutes from downtown Tokyo). Recently, Japanese officials called for an incremental opening that would provide opportunities for Japanese carriers and their code-share partners to operate out of Haneda Airport, which is only 10 minutes from downtown Tokyo. Unfortunately, this new arrangement would not provide room for Delta’s operations to move.
While enough capacity exists at Haneda to serve all U.S. carrier needs and provide competition, Japan has insisted on a controlled, limited opening designed to benefit only Japan’s network carriers and their partners. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has already agreed to this framework that, if adopted, would undermine Delta’s service between U.S. cities and Tokyo, including MSP’s direct flight, and reduce competition on travel to Asia.
It is clear to me — as a commissioner on the Metropolitan Airports Commission and a board member on the Minnesota Business Partnership and Greater MSP — that this potential move will inflict economic harm on our business communities and hinder the ability of Minnesota businesses to engage in the global market effectively.
It also takes Minnesota in the wrong direction. The business community is asking for more access to Asia, not less. We know that each international flight that is added at MSP expands access to key business markets, boosts tourism and helps to strengthen our economy.
The U.S. government should insist that the government of Japan open Haneda to fair competition. The businesses and people of Minnesota depend on open skies.
Rick King is a member of the Metropolitan Airports Commission and a board member of the Minnesota Business Partnership and Greater MSP. He is executive vice president and chief information officer at Thomson Reuters.