A recent decision to tentatively award a daytime flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport — which is significantly closer to central Tokyo than Narita Airport, the current destination of daytime Delta flights — is a big win for Minnesota.
It’s also a testament to the benefits of a cohesive congressional delegation and business community, which joined forces to press the U.S. Department of Transportation to make MSP one of just a few airports to have such a direct flight.
The decision, expected to become final in the fall, was the result of a new aviation agreement between the governments of Japan and the U.S. Five daytime flights were awarded: Four of them were existing nighttime routes, including a Delta and an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles, a United Airlines flight from San Francisco, and a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu. (Chicago’s O’Hare and New York’s JFK Airports will have daytime flights from Japanese airlines that have U.S. airline partners.)
The competition was keen, and winning it will help keep Minnesota competitive in an increasingly globalized economy. It was crucial that private-sector leaders and a bipartisan delegation joined Gov. Mark Dayton and others in lobbying Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Minnesota’s behalf.
“This is a really positive development for us — [losing the route] would have taken away a very competitive advantage,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar told an editorial writer. “In the Twin Cities, we may be in the middle of the country, but we consider ourselves a major economic powerhouse worthy of direct flights to Asia, and that’s why it was so important to continue this route and not lose out to others.”
Foxx acknowledged the unique unity Minnesota showed, Klobuchar said. “He said he had been impressed with the broad support we had in our state, and the fact that we had so much interest in this in our state helped,” Klobuchar said, adding: “You have to fight for stuff, and we did it across the aisle and we did it together.”
Beyond business and political leaders, a Delta statement credited customers, partners and employees. CEO Ed Bastian wrote in a letter to the editor of the Star Tribune: “The leadership of this great state was stronger than ever.”
To its credit, the state’s congressional delegation is increasingly unified in its push for issues both local — like MSP access to Haneda — as well as international — such as keeping open the world’s largest refugee camp in Kenya that protects more than 350,000 Somali refugees.
The business community often has pulled together, too, and this victory should energize leaders striving to keep the region globally competitive. So while the DOT decision is great news in its own right, the even bigger win will be if it further encourages regional leaders to continue to coalesce around common goals.