Thursday, October 29, 2009

ANA Looking to Expand

The Wall Street Journal has a new story up on All Nippon Airways's (ANA) aggressive plan to acquire more slots at Tokyo's two major international airports even as fellow Japanese carrier JAL struggles to survive.  See Mariko Sanchanta, ANA to Seek More International Slots in Airport Expansions, Wall St. J., Oct. 29, 2009 (available here).  From the story:

"ANA is arguing they only have half of JAL's international slots, and are arguing that they need more," said the official. "JAL is facing a difficult situation, so it would make sense to strategically allocate more slots to ANA."

"We want to put in requests for more slots, but nothing has been decided," said an ANA spokesman. "We would like our proportion of our international routes to increase, but this is not for us to decide."

Traditionally, slot allocations have been meted out by the government in proportion to the size of each carriers' international route operations. JAL generates about 70% of its revenue from its international operations, giving it the lion's share of international slots at Narita, while ANA derives roughly 30% of its revenue from international flights.

However, the government official said that it was considering disproportionate slot allocations for the first time, given JAL's uncertain future.

If ANA is able to secure more slots, it could be a market boon for the Star Alliance.  As the story mentions, ANA supports the establishment of an open skies agreement between the U.S. and Japan.  The airline hopes to join the plethora of European carriers which have been able to integrate themselves into global alliance partnerships with U.S. airlines under a grant of antitrust immunity from the Department of Transportation.  Though not an official element of U.S. international aviation policy, the DOT has long required an open skies bilateral to be in place prior to bestowing approval and immunity on an alliance agreement.  The limits of that policy are currently being put to the test in the context of the oneworld Alliance application.  With the DOT reportedly delaying its decision due to Justice Department concerns, a cloud of uncertainty still hangs over the future of antitrust immunity for expansive alliances.  At this point, it's far from certain than a Japan/U.S. open skies deal will be enough to secure immunization.

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