It looks like Minnesota won't lose its nonstop connection to Asia just yet.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has recommended giving Delta Air Lines a route from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to Haneda Airport – Tokyo's most centrally located airport for people visiting Japan's capital, according to a news release.
Delta currently offers a flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo's Narita International Airport, which is farther outside the city than Haneda.
But there was concern earlier this year that the Atlanta-based airline could lose its Minnesota connection to Japan when the U.S. and Japanese governments agreed to expand daytime air service to Haneda Airport.
Previously, U.S. airlines were only allowed to fly into Haneda overnight. But the agreement, which will take effect Oct. 30, called for the four nighttime flights already operating at Haneda to be transferred to more favorable daytime hours, and to add one new daytime route from the U.S, the release says.
Delta was worried that if service switched to daytime hours at the more-desirable Haneda Airport, it would render its Twin Cities-to-Narita flight unprofitable and would force it to nix the route.
But on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed Delta would get the fifth daytime flight.
In a statement to BringMeTheNews, Delta said:
"Delta is thrilled with the Department of Transportation’s tentative decision to award MSP direct service to Tokyo-Haneda airport. We are thankful for exceptional effort put forth by the Minneapolis-St. Paul community, elected officials, business leaders, customers, partners and employees to support our bid for this service to maintain direct access to Japan. We are hopeful the DOT will award MSP this service in its final decision."
The other routes in the Department of Transportation's proposal are: American Airlines and Delta flights from Los Angeles; a United Airlines flight from San Francisco; and a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu.
The Department of Transportation said it picked these flights in an effort to "maximize public benefits" based on the airlines that "offered and could maintain the best ongoing service between the U.S. and Tokyo."
The proposed routes aren't final yet – anyone who objects to the routes has until Aug. 1 to comment (do so here). Then the Department of Transportation will consider the objections – and the airlines' responses to any objections – before releasing its final decision.
Dayton cheers securing Delta flight
Members of Minnesota's congressional delegation had urged the Department of Transportation to save Minnesota's connection to Japan.
And on Wednesday, Gov. Mark Dayton said he was "pleased" with their work to secure the direct flight to Haneda, according to an email news release.
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said in the release the flight is "critical for Minnesota business travelers as they compete in the global marketplace and for the future vitality of our economy."
Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, along with other members of the delegation, released a joint statement saying they are "pleased" with the Department of Transportation's decision, noting Minnesota-based businesses and families relay on MSP Airport to get around the world.
Delta's flight from MSP Airport to Haneda could begin as early as this fall.