Delta to suspend the SLC-Tokyo nonstop flight

Published: Thursday, Aug. 13 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Utahns can say "sayonara" to nonstop five-day-a-week flights to Tokyo.

The Delta Air Lines Inc. flights will be suspended during winter, the company said Tuesday, after announcing in July that it was eliminating its Wednesday flights between Salt Lake City and Tokyo.

In September, the flight will be offered four days a week. From Oct. 1 through May 14, 2010, the flight will be suspended.

"After that, we will bring it back four days a week," said Anthony Black, spokeswoman for the Atlanta-based carrier.

The nonstop, 11-hour fight from Salt Lake City International Airport to Tokyo Narita International Airport began June 3.

However, demand for travel has been cool with the recession and the H1N1 virus scare. Delta had announced it intended to cut 15 percent of its international flights, and the Salt Lake City-Tokyo flight cutbacks are part of that plan.

Delta doesn't share competitive information, such as the number of people purchasing tickets for the flights, but Black said the company responds to market demand.

The flights will resume four days a week next summer because "the primary season for U.S. travel is from Easter to Labor Day," Black said.

If you have booked a flight to Tokyo for anytime between Oct. 31 and May 15, originally thinking it's nonstop from Salt Lake City, your itinerary will change. Plan for a layover.

"Passengers can have nonstop service out of Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Portland," Black said.

Delta is assuming Northwest Airlines' Tokyo hub as the two carriers are in the process of merging. From Tokyo, Northwest offers nonstop flights to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai in China; Bangkok, Thailand; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Singapore. Other cities, such as Seoul, Korea, and Hanoi, Vietnam, can be reached from Tokyo through other airlines.

To encourage Delta to begin offering nonstop flights to Tokyo, the state promised to spend its own money to advertise it.

The state spent about $112,000 in advertising the new service inside Sunset magazine for residents of the Western U.S. and in Delta Sky Magazine for other would-be passengers, including Asians, said Leigh von der Esch, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism. Now that the flight has been suspended, von der Esch stopped plans to advertise in October and November magazines. Advertising will resume when the flights do, she said.

Von der Esch doesn't think the money was a waste, despite flight cutbacks, because the ads promoted Utah as a tourist destination.

"I didn't just pay for a Delta ad," she said, describing one advertisement. "I have a young Japanese woman kneeling in front of an arch that's clearly Utah. And we have advertorial that talks about Utah."

e-mail: lhancock@desnews.com

TWITTER: laurahancock

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