Haneda Airport has always won the favors of the traveling public in Tokyo. The airport is located 14 km away from Tokyo business districts and is easily accessible by monorail in 30 minutes from the Tokyo main train station. Haneda is Japan’s busiest airport and Asia’s second busiest (after Beijing) with 61.9 million passengers. However, Tokyo Haneda has been designated for years by the government as a purely domestic airport – except a few daily flights to Seoul, Taipei, and China – while Tokyo’s second airport in Narita was designated as the compulsory air gateway to the Japanese capital. For years, international travelers have been grumbling about long traveling time and high costs to reach this airport. Narita is, in fact, located 60 km away from the city and received in 2009 a total of 32 million passengers.
Next October, the opening of a fourth runway at Haneda will dramatically change travel perspectives for passengers. The new 2,500 meter runway will allow 24-hour operations and boost air movements from 285,000 to 407,000 per year. Combined with a brand-new 154,000 m² passengers terminal exclusively dedicated to international traffic, Haneda will suddenly be able to accommodate international flights and become a serious competitor to Narita. The airport will have the opportunity to be linked by 32 daily flights to international destinations.
Announcements for new services are coming one after another: Singapore Airlines was the first to reveal in March to start two daily flights in October. Japan’s national carrier then unveiled in April that it would open six destinations, while All Nippon Airways plans to fly to five international destinations, starting from October. The latest to announce joining the list of air carriers are Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur and Thai Airways from Bangkok.
In total, twelve airlines are due to launch international flights from Haneda’s new international facility during the winter season 2010-11. They will be joined by Chinese, Korean, and Taiwanese carriers already present at the airport. Five airlines will fly to the USA with American Airlines launching flights to New York, Delta to Detroit, and Los Angeles and Hawaiian Airlines to Honolulu, while JAL will link Honolulu and San Francisco, as well as Honolulu and Los Angeles. JAL will be the only carrier for the time being offering flights to Europe with a daily frequency to Paris. However, there are serious discussions to see either Japan Airlines or British Airways launching flights to London. In another development, Japan’s budget carrier, Slymark Airlines, has announced it will look for regular charter flights to Guam out of Haneda.
How much damage could there be to Narita Airport? “It should be limited, as we will not be allowed to fly intercontinental routes during the day out of Haneda, a handicap to serve many overseas markets,” said JAL president and COO Masaru Onishi. “The big issue is, in fact, long-haul destinations from Haneda, as the new runway has limited length. However, it might be possible that we could put our new Boeing B787 [there] for some intercontinental operations,” added Keisuke Okada, executive vice president of alliances and international affairs at All Nippon Airways.
Haneda airport authorities expect to welcome over 8.5 million international passengers by 2012 and more than 10 million by 2015, a number which will have largely been dragged away from Narita Airport. It will definitely impact the growth of Tokyo’s international gateway in Narita. But NAA, Narita Airport Authority, is soon to unveil a strategy to fight back.