Adding 3 flights to Tokyo, Delta will be USA's top airline to Asia

— -- Delta Air Lines, dalwhose merger with Northwest Airlines closed two weeks ago, will soon become the USA's No. 1 airline between the East Coast and Asia.

Delta said Wednesday that next summer it will add three new non-stop flights from the U.S. to Tokyo's Narita airport, Northwest's Asia hub, from which Northwest flies to 13 other Asian cities. Northwest is also launching new non-stop flights between Seattle and Beijing and between Detroit and Shanghai.

With the addition of the non-stop flights to Tokyo, Delta says it will become the top U.S. carrier to Asia overall, eclipsing United uauaand Continental Airlines' calsubstantial service to that region. Most significant will be Delta's new non-stop service between New York — the USA's biggest travel market — and Tokyo.

Wednesday's announcement vividly illustrates one of the chief reasons Delta and Northwest sought to merge, creating the USA's largest carrier.

Delta is the leading carrier at New York's Kennedy airport, operating scores of daily flights feeding passengers to Kennedy from all over the country, where they can connect to international flights. Northwest has long operated a big Asia hub at Tokyo.

With the merger now closed, Delta can leverage that New York hub to Tokyo's Narita airport, the leading gateway to Japan and the world's sixth-busiest international airport.

When Delta's new Tokyo service begins next June, Delta will morph overnight from having no service at all between New York and Asia "to being the No. 1 player between New York and Asia," Delta Executive Vice President Glen Hauenstein said Wednesday.

Continental, which operates a huge hub at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey, currently operates the most non-stop service between the New York region and Asia, Continental spokesman David Messing said.

Continental flies non-stop from Newark to Tokyo, Hong Kong and Beijing, and will launch non-stop Newark to Shanghai service in March.

Chicago-based United, the USA's leading carrier to China, operates one non-stop a day between Washington Dulles and Beijing. Its other China service departs from Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Altogether, Delta Wednesday announced 15 new international routes for next summer to Europe, Africa and Asia. Those include flights between Atlanta and Johannesburg, Delta's first daily non-stop service to South Africa.