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Internationalization of Haneda incomplete

  • 2015-11-02 15:00:00
  • , Asahi
  • Translation

(Asahi: October 31, 2015 – p. 2)

 

 Oct. 31 marks the fifth anniversary of regular overseas flights at Haneda Airport [since its redesignation as an international airport in 2010]. Haneda’s international flights have more than doubled in number over that time, increasing from the figure of 48 a day five years ago to a maximum of 101 daily flights today. In addition, more and more people are flying from regional airports to Haneda Airport to transfer to international flights. However, the airport still has no direct flights to such business destinations as New York and Chicago. Haneda thus has some issues to resolve before it can be considered a competitive “international airport.”

 

 Too few slots: Impact on Japan-U.S. routes

 

 Despite the fact that Haneda has doubled its international service over the past five years, it still has no flights to the East Coast of the United States, including New York, Washington, and Chicago. Many Japanese companies have offices on the Eastern seaboard and these flights should be “moneymakers” from the related business traffic, but no routes have been created because Haneda has too few slots.

 

 Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) plans to allocate eight more flights a day to U.S. routes. By reviewing runway usage and allowing evening flights to travel over central Tokyo, MLIT plans to increase the number of slots by 40–50 by the year 2020 and to allocate the new slots to international flights. Even if MLIT were able to increase the number of slots, though, the ministry would not be able to assign them all to Japan-U.S. routes.

 

 There is also a “secret plan” to have the U.S. use one slot which came free after negotiations with Thailand. There is the possibility, however, that Japanese airlines will object to this allocation, which, from their perspective, would give their U.S. rivals an advantage.

 

 To create new flights to New York and other U.S. destinations requires that Japan and the U.S. hold official inter-governmental aviation negotiations, which they have not done since 2010. Top officials at Delta Air Lines have repeatedly asked the Japanese government to shift all of Delta’s Narita flights to Haneda.

 

 “Delta doesn’t want to shift to Haneda if only some of our flights will be moved there,” says Delta.

 

 Delta is holding out the possibility that it will shift its East Asian hub from Narita to South Korea’s Incheon International Airport.

 

 Delta has more than 20 flights a day from Narita and flies to the U.S. mainland, Hawaii, and Southeast Asia from there.

 

 “More than one-third of our customers are traveling from North America to Southeast Asia,” says Masaru Morimoto, Delta’s managing director for Japan. If only some of the company’s flights were moved to Haneda, customers might not be able to transfer to Delta flights.

 

 Delta rivals American Airlines and United Airlines have tie-ups with Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, respectively, and a partial move of Delta flights to Haneda would mean Delta customers could transfer to other carriers there. This is another factor behind this insistence by Delta.

 

 Haneda currently has direct flights to 28 cities overseas. Add in service from Narita, and the number of cities comes to about 100. Japan does not even come close to Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, which directly serves 137 cities as of August last year.

 

 MLIT’s competition strategy: Use Haneda and Narita together

 

 Haneda Airport has 500 domestic flights a day, [connecting with points throughout Japan] from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Since its redesignation as an international airport, Haneda has taken on the new role of “hub for transfers to international flights” for travelers from Japan’s regional areas.

 

 If the airport’s traditional role as “the gateway to Tokyo” is factored in, this means that Haneda routes have become even more important. There is discussion of whether some of the domestic slots can be used for international flights, but there is deeply rooted resistance to the elimination or reduction of domestic flights. A top MLIT official says, “It is unclear what will happen in a few decades when the population is smaller, but we cannot drastically increase international flights immediately now.”

 

 Today international visitors are coming to Japan in unprecedented numbers, setting a new record of almost 20 million a year. Moreover, Tokyo is set to host the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020. Japan faces the urgent issue of improving the convenience of its international airport situated close to the nation’s capital.

 

 Recognizing this, Narita Airport has started to take action. The local community is becoming increasingly concerned that Narita will fade in importance compared with Haneda. In September, it started talks with the national government and other parties about night flights and lengthening runways.

 

 For the immediate future, MLIT has in place a strategy to compete against other Asian airports, including Incheon and Hong Kong, by designating both Haneda and Narita as “international hub airports” and using them together. Makoto Natsume, president & CEO of Narita International Airport Corporation, says, “Narita would like to take advantage of its strong network to fulfill its role as hub airport for Asia and North America.” (Abridged)

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