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Las Vegas may land nonstop flights to Tokyo in 2020

Updated March 13, 2019 - 6:47 pm

Las Vegas’ airport could soon see the first daily nonstop service to Japan since 2006.

American Airlines applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation last month to operate a nonstop service from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to McCarran International Airport that would begin in summer 2020, if approved.

Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympics in July-August, 2020.

Las Vegas is the largest U.S. market for Japanese travelers without nonstop flights, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and McCarran said in a joint letter to the USDOT supporting American Airlines’ application.

Three other airlines and 12 other cities are vying for the additional nonstop Tokyo flights, with the decision of which airports are awarded the coveted routes expected to come sometime in the summer. Las Vegas is the only city among those without an existing nonstop flight to Japan.

The letter from McCarran and the LVCVA said the benefits arising from a nonstop flight between Tokyo and Las Vegas are significantly higher than those arising from additional flights from an already served market.

The added flight would lead to an estimated impact of approximately $143 million annually, according to the two entities.

“New flights tend to bring additional visitors in and foreign visitors stay longer and spend more money,” said Chris Jones, McCarran spokesman. “That is why we’re so actively involved in looking for new nonstop foreign flights.”

Steve Hill, CEO of the LVCVA said the possible nonstop to Tokyo has been on the airport’s radar for some time, as it is the largest unserved market via direct flight from McCarran.

“We’ve seen the opportunity for quite some time and we’re really pleased that American has seen that as well now,” he said. “Both the LVCVA and McCarran put in a great deal of work over the years and we appreciate the airlines participating in this along the way.

“We have over 250,000 people that come from Japan into Vegas now,” Hill added. “We think the flight will, one make it more convenient for them, but create the opportunity to bring in new visitors to Las Vegas. For us, it’s the largest opportunity that we see in terms of pure numbers of passengers.”

American Airlines added 11 roundtrip Tokyo flights between Las Vegas and Tokyo’s Narita International Airport during CES 2019 to accommodate trade show exhibitors and attendees.

That temporary CES service served as a test run for the hopeful 2020 service for both American and McCarran, Jones said.

“Everything worked (for American) from ticket sales, servicing the flight, ground handling and all the other pieces to make something like this successful,” Jones said. “At McCarran we wanted to make sure that we could meet those needs and get all those things that they needed to do to help them be successful. We met with American in February and they said it exceeded their expectations and that it was very successful.”

In addition to Las Vegas, American Airlines also requested to operate additional service to Tokyo Haneda from Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles.

The application resulted from U.S. and Japan reaching a tentative agreement in January to expand access at Haneda, which would open up to 12 additional daytime slot pairs for U.S. carrier operations

“Tokyo is an important hub for our Pacific Joint Business with Japan Airlines,” said American Airlines President Robert Isom. “Enhanced service at Haneda would give our customers better access to downtown Tokyo and open up JAL’s domestic network with flights to destinations like Osaka, Sapporo and Fukuoka.”

Haneda is about an hour closer to downtown Tokyo than Narita.

Jones said he is hopeful Las Vegas will land the nonstop service. He noted that some of the other applications involved moving existing flights between Narita and U.S. cities to Haneda.

“That’s not really adding to the ability to serve a new market or make new connections for people,” he sad. “Here (Las Vegas) we’re talking about an entirely new region, that doesn’t have Japanese service, I think that’s something that will at least catch people’s attention.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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