Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines has confirmed it will be closing its flight attendant base in Tokyo with the possibility of job losses. The airline says though that it hopes it can transfer many of the affected staffers to other customer service roles.
Delta explained that its decision to transfer all flight operations from Tokyo’s Narita airport to the city’s Haneda international airport was the main reason for the flight attendant base closure.
“With Delta’s operations ceasing in NRT, it will be necessary to close the Tokyo flight attendant base,” a spokesperson for Delta told us.
“We remain committed to supporting our people through this difficult transition. We will offer the option to transfer to customer service roles in other areas as well as an option to accept a voluntary separation program,” the emailed statement continued.
It’s not clear how many flight attendants will be affected or whether Delta might be forced to make involuntary redundancies if they don’t get enough volunteers. Reassigned flight attendants are expected to mainly work in Delta’s Tokyo customer contact centre.
The airline will continue to have Japenese-speaking flight attendants although they will only be based in the United States and may not have the same cultural experience and understanding as it’s current Japan-based crew.
In the last couple of weeks, Delta publicly announced its plans to abandon Narita airport and centre all if its Tokyo operations at Haneda airport which is closer to the city center. The transfer is expected to be completed by early 2020.
In time for the Tokyo Olympic Games next year, Delta will operate seven daily flights to Haneda from cities across the U.S. including Seattle, Detroit, Atlanta, Honolulu, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Portland.
At the time of the announcement, senior Delta executive Steve Sear said the decision demonstrated the airline’s “commitment” to Tokyo. As recently as last week, Delta was advertising a dedicated flight attendant for its Delta One cabin as a differentiator from competitors.
That being said, Delta is far from alone in closing its international flight attendant bases. The decision by British Airways to axe its Hong Kong outpost last year was fiercely opposed but ultimately the closure continued with very little notice.