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Minnesota leaders meeting with government to save MSP-Tokyo flight

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Minnesota's political leaders are meeting with the Obama administration Thursday in an attempt to save the Twin Cities air link with Japan.

It was revealed last month that discussions between the U.S. and Japan to open up Tokyo's Haneda Airport to flights between the two nations could lead to Delta canceling its nonstop service between MSP and Tokyo Narita.

The expansion of Haneda would move traffic away from Narita and benefit Delta's rivals, American and United, which unlike Delta both have a Japanese airline partner. Delta has said it would make its route between MSP and Narita unprofitable.

KSTP reports Gov. Mark Dayton and Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar are meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to influence the discussions with Japan in a way that saves Minnesota's direct link with Japan, which has existed since 1947.

It comes as the Japanese and U.S. governments resume their discussions about access to Tokyo's international airports on Tuesday, the TV station notes.

Ninety percent of passengers traveling from Japan on the Minnesota route are connecting to another flight when they land at MSP, so expanding Haneda (with the current plan to free up 10 landing/takeoff slots) could see more passengers choosing other U.S. airports to connect through instead.

The Star Tribune reports Rep. Betty McCollum wrote to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough recently asking for a meeting with him to "find a solution," which was signed by Minnesota's members of Congress.

"We believe the only way to preserve fair competition is for the U.S. government to insist that Japan fully open Haneda airport to U.S. carriers, or continue operating the two airports at status quo," she wrote in the letter.

Writing in the Pioneer Press, Elizabeth Brailsford – president of the Japan America Society of Minnesota – said the loss of the daily link to Japan would have an "enormous" impact on Minnesotans.

"It is more than losing a direct flight to Tokyo; it is losing the opportunity to bring the people of Japan and America together to support critical business relationships and engage in cultural activities, both of which are core pillars of our mission at the Japan America Society of Minnesota," she wrote.

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