US carriers American and Delta said they were suspending flights to Japan in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, halting recently launched services to Tokyo's Haneda airport.
The decisions come amid fears that Japan's quake, tsunami and persistent nuclear crisis will strike a blow to the aviation industry, which last year counted on trans-Pacific travel as one of the brightest points of growth.
American Airlines said Thursday it was halting a daily flight launched in February between New York's John F. Kennedy and Tokyo's Haneda, a mostly domestic airport which Japan has tried to turn into an international hub.
American Airlines said it was also suspending one of two daily flights between Dallas-Fort Worth and Narita airport east of Tokyo, the primary international gateway to Japan.
The airline said it planned to resume the flights on April 26 and was going ahead with the launch of a joint venture with Japan Airlines.
"While this was a difficult decision, we continue to support Japan, our customers and our employees through these challenging times," said Theo Panagiotoulias, vice president and managing director for the Asia-Pacific region.
The move comes after Delta Air Lines suspended its two flights to Haneda. The carrier plans to restart service to Haneda from Los Angeles on June 1 and from Detroit on June 16, a spokeswoman said.
Delta and American, along with United Airlines and Continental Airlines, maintain flights to Narita.
But Hawaiian Airlines, the other US carrier granted a coveted spot at Haneda, said it planned to continue its daily flights from Honolulu to Haneda and also launch a new service to Osaka in July.
Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian Airlines' president and chief executive, said that the carrier's travel partners believed the Japan market could recover in May unless conditions worsen.
The Tokyo-Honolulu service primarily serves Japanese passengers, for whom Hawaii is a popular vacation destination.
"One cannot fail to be impressed by how quickly daily activity has returned to near normality in Tokyo and Osaka," Dunkerley said.
"It is clearly the case that those of us watching developments in Japan from afar have little appreciation for what is actually happening in these cities that are some distance away from where devastation has occurred," he said.
US carriers had heavily promoted direct flights to Haneda, hoping to attract travelers drawn to the airport's proximity to central Tokyo. Japan last year built a glitzy new international terminal at Haneda.
Service between Haneda and the United States remains on Japan's two airlines: All Nippon Airways, which is a partner of United Airlines, and Japan Airlines, the partner of American Airlines.