By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four U.S. carriers have won tentative approval to launch daytime U.S. flights to Tokyo's Haneda airport as early as this fall, the U.S. Transportation Department said on Wednesday.
Delta Air Lines, American Airlines Group Inc, Hawaiian Holdings Inc and United Continental Holdings Inc would gain the rights for flights that depart or land in the day at Haneda, which is closer to Tokyo than Narita International Airport, the department said in a statement. U.S. business travelers and tourists prefer to be at airports in the day.
Prior to a U.S.-Japan agreement in February, U.S. carriers could only leave and land in Haneda at late hours in the night.
Approvals were given to Delta for flights from Los Angeles and Minneapolis, Hawaiian from Honolulu, American from Los Angeles, and United from San Francisco. Except for Minneapolis, the cities already had night-time flights to Haneda.
A final decision will be issued after a public comment period, the department said. Service must begin within 90 days after the decision.
The Transportation Department said in a written order that if Delta scaled back its Minneapolis flight plans, the government would cancel the authority and give the flight to American in Dallas.
Other airlines have questioned if there was enough traffic to support a Minneapolis route.
The department rejected requests for Haneda flights from Dallas by American Airlines, Newark by United and Delta from Atlanta.
American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said in an email that the carrier was disappointed that the Dallas flight was not approved and it was considering all options. The airline could file objections to the decision before it is final.
In 2010, the Transportation Department selected Delta's Detroit-Haneda service proposal for night-time service, but after less than two years in operation it was canceled in 2012 and moved to Seattle. Delta discontinued the Seattle flight in 2015, saying it was not commercially feasible.
(Reporting by David Shepardson. Additional reporting by Jeffrey Dastin; Editing by Chris Reese and Richard Chang)