Delta Air Focused to Expand Operations in Asia

Delta Air Lines Inc. is committed to expanding its international services by making its key Atlanta airport serve as a gateway to Latin America for Asian passengers, as the U.S. carrier is set to soon exist from bankruptcy, a senior Delta official said Tuesday.

"As we look to expand to more worldwide, we're very focused on Asia," Pam Elledge, Delta's vice president in charge of global sales, told reporters in Tokyo.

"There is a significant amount of Asian travel to Latin America and we want to be able to continue to grow on that," Elledge said. "Atlanta is the key connecting point and the most convenient point linking Asia and Latin America."

Delta said international services accounted for about 35 percent of its total revenues in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Delta said it wants to raise the ratio to 50 percent in the years ahead by taking advantage of the world's largest airline hub in Atlanta, where the company is headquartered.

The No. 3 U.S. airline, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2005, marked the 20th anniversary of connecting Japan and the United States in March.

After 2004, Delta's only connection between Japan and the United States is between Tokyo and Atlanta, flying daily.

At present, this is the only Delta route to Asia, but the airline will begin services between Atlanta and Seoul in June and is hoping to fly to Shanghai in 2008.

Delta used to have nonstop flights from Tokyo to Los Angeles, Nagoya to Los Angeles, Tokyo to New York and Fukuoka to Portland, Oregon, but those were discontinued partly due to a drop in passengers following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Delta aims to emerge from bankruptcy at the end of this month with a court approval and plans to list its new common stock again on the New York Stock Exchange in May.

Delta said the current route between Japan and the United States is running at more than 90 percent capacity. But the company said it finds it difficult to expand the service due to a lack of slots at Narita airport, near Tokyo.

Delta declined to elaborate on whether the company has a plan to resume services in other parts of Japan.

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