Shifting Winds: The US Big 3 Airlines Pivot in Asia

Published: Dec 10, 2018

China, regional partners, and the US Big 3 Airlines Pivot in Asia

 To the disappointment of local tourism stakeholders on the Pacific island of Guam, Delta Airlines announced during the fall of 2017 it would end its daily Tokyo-Narita to Guam flights in January 2018. The route – first opened in the 1980s by then-Northwest Airlines – marked the end of Delta’s presence on the island, leaving United as the only US-based carrier serving the US territory. Along with United, Delta was a main fixture serving the island’s tourism industry even Japanese visitor arrivals consistently declined over the last decade. While local officials have sought to offset the effects of Delta’s presence, United would then make its own route cuts from Guam. The reduction of flights by Delta and United on Guam is just a small part of a much bigger shift in strategy for both carriers in the lucrative, but highly competitive market of Asia.

Key Points

• United and Delta have gradually reduced its intra-Asia network and routes now dominated by regional players

• The US Big 3 Carriers now rely heavily on codeshare partners to connect travelers to destinations in Asia

• China is now a primary driver for US carriers’ growth in Asia

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