Delta will end service to Taipei in May, further eroding its Tokyo Narita hub.
Delta currently operates a daily Fifth Freedom flight between Tokyo Narita and Taipei, Taiwan. That flight will end on May 24, 2017.
Blaming the international expansion of Tokyo Haneda Airport for its weakening Narita hub, Delta claims this “restructuring” was a necessity. Delta already announced the elimination of service to New York JFK, Osaka, and Bangkok from Narita last summer.
Delta says that’s all for now, but its hub at Narita is certainly shrinking. Nevertheless, it remains a much stronger hub than United, which also still labels Narita a hub.
Why This Move Makes Great Sense for Delta
Economics are changing. Technology is changing. Alliances are changing. New aircraft like the 787 and A35o have made to non-stop service to markets like Taipei much more economically feasible. The traditional hub-and-spoke system will live on, but people do not want to make an extra connection in Asia traveling to Taiwan and it is no longer necessary. Delta’s Skyteam partner China Airlines serves Taipei nonstop from Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. Even from Tokyo, China Airlines offers three daily non-stop flights. The Delta flight was redundant.
Delta is rethinking its Narita hub for good reason. With Haneda’s slot liberalizations, carriers have access to more gates at preferred times than ever before. Narita — it seems to me — will turn into a London Gatwick. Budget carriers and flights to leisure destinations will continue to fill its gates, but it will no longer be a global hub. That baton will pass to Haneda.
Hopefully Delta and China Airlines will work more closely together. China Airlines has a wonderful business product and is giving EVA a real run for its money. I also hope Delta will not permanently abandon Taipei. Perhaps a direct flight from its Seattle hub could be viable with robust China Airlines codeshare connections beyond.
But this move is the right one. Tokyo Narita has a rich Northwest Orient legacy at Delta, but times are changing. United/ANA and AA/JAL form a formidable axis. With no Japanese parter, Delta would be better served either flying more point-to-point destinations in Asia or focusing on Skyteam fortress hubs in Seoul or Taipei.