Maybe, like us, you haven't thought much—yet—about the Summer 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. But for the Port of Portland and Oregon's entire Congressional delegation, it has been front of mind for some time. On May 16, the Port of Portland announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation has tentatively allocated one of twelve new flight slots to Toyko Haneda Airport to PDX, with service to be provided by Delta Airlines.
The new nonstop route—to begin operation sometime in summer 2020, if approved—would mean easier access for Portland travelers to this vast Japanese metropolis. For the last 35 years, Delta has flown a route between PDX and Tokyo Narita Airport, which is actually located about 70 kilometers east of Tokyo. Haneda Airport, on the other hand, is within the city limits, allowing travelers to get to the heart of Tokyo in as little as 30 minutes.
Easy access to the Olympics is just one of many reasons the Oregon delegation is fighting hard for this streamlined route. Japan provides more visitors to Oregon than any other overseas country, and passengers from PDX seem to be reciprocating that fondness: according to Port of Portland data, our local airport has seen a 71 percent increase in passengers flying to Japan over the last seven years. Port officials hope that a nonstop flight will continue to bolster the state’s cultural and business ties with Japan.
“One of the best ways we can connect Portland to the world is through nonstop flights out of PDX,” said Curtis Robinhold, Executive Director for Port of Portland, in a May 16 press release. “Demand for this route continues to grow.”
Growing that connection is apparently a goal keenly shared by our congresspeople. Oregon’s entire federal delegation—both senators and all five representatives—lobbied the U.S. Department of Transportation for PDX to receive one of Haneda’s precious few new flight slots. Senator Jeff Merkley even made a personal call to DOT Secretary Elaine Chao to appeal on the airport’s behalf.
“I am thrilled at the opportunity this creates for our farmers, businesses, and travelers,” said Senator Merkley in a May 17 press release. “Being able to fly directly to the more modern, more convenient Haneda Airport in Tokyo will allow us to continue fostering and expanding those connections.”
The DOT's final decision is expected later this summer. Meanwhile, Oregon's delegation, from the sound of it, is fully expecting that Portland will debut its new Haneda route come summer 2020. If and when that happens, the Olympics will be just one reason to celebrate.