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MSP resumes time-honored nonstop flights to Tokyo

The direct Delta flight is making a comeback following a hiatus of three years due to the pandemic.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — First it was London, then Seoul.

Big city nonstop international flights are mounting a major comeback after halting during the pandemic. On Monday it was Tokyo's turn to resume service.

For folks getting on that flight, the comeback means much more than just skipping a connection.

Gate G4 buzzed with excitement on Monday, as people awaited to board the first weekday flight headed directly to Tokyo. (Flights technically resumed Saturday).

It was a long-awaited return for a well-established route. 

"For decades, we had this connection to Asia," said Roy Fuhrmann, Chief Operations Officer for the Metropolitan Airport Commission (MAC). "So as the pandemic came through and this route was suspended, it's wonderful to welcome this flight from Delta Airlines back into our mix here and offer this to our public."

Re-establishing the venerable flight brings with it a rekindling of business relations between Minnesota and Japan, according to Amanda Taylor, Vice President of Business Investment at Greater MSP partnership.

"We have 40 Japanese companies that are operating in Minnesota," Taylor explained. "Over 10,000 folks employed by Japanese-owned companies in Minnesota, and over half of that is manufacturing. So connection between Japan and Minnesota in industries that are really important to our economy, like medical device manufacturing and semiconductors."

And waving layovers goodbye is more than just convenient.

"I just went home the past holiday time for the first time in five years," Rio Saito said. Saito is the Executive Director of the Japanese American Society of Minnesota. "And I had to fly to two different airports, and finally get home. So it was a long journey."

Saito said it's difficult to estimate the number of Japanese folks in the state. However, she said the direct flight was missed by more than 3,000 Japanese people in the Metro.

"It's not too much to say that it's a lifeline for us," Saito said. "Direct, straight to our families. And it's really really exciting that we can just go back home, so much easier."

Prior to the stoppage of the route in 2020, nearly 17,000 passengers flew on this direct route yearly.

Saito said she's also excited for more Minnesotans to visit Japan, especially this time of year when it is exceptionally beautiful with the blooming of cherry blossoms.


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