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Editorial: Advance effective division of roles for Haneda, Narita airports

  • January 20, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 7:25 p.m.
  • English Press

To smoothly accommodate the flow of foreign visitors to Japan, Haneda and Narita airports are moving ahead with the improvement of their capabilities. In the interest of effectiveness, their roles should be divided, enhancing the international competitiveness of these gateways to Japan.


Haneda will start making use of new flight routes over central Tokyo in March. The number of takeoffs and landings for international flights at Haneda will increase by about 40,000 a year, totaling about 490,000.


All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines will establish new Haneda routes, focusing on the United States, with some of their Narita routes transferred to Haneda. U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines will withdraw from Narita, transferring its flights to Haneda.


The increase in the number of international flight services at Haneda, which is close to central Tokyo, will bring about more convenience. It will also become a favorable development for attracting business enterprises from abroad and so forth. While taking into consideration the residents living in the vicinity of the new flight routes, the airport should meet an increase in passenger demand.


It used to be the rule that Narita is for international flights, while Haneda is for domestic ones. Since Haneda started operating its fourth runway in 2010, this principle has gradually broken down, with Haneda becoming more of an international airport.


But the central government has not come to grips with any drastic review of the two airports and the separate roles they should play. Probably the sentiments of local communities in the vicinity of Narita have been taken into account in light of how things came about, namely civil conflict, over the construction of the airport.


The government has set an objective of seeing the number of foreign visitors to Japan increase to 60 million by 2030. In order to realize this, it is essential to beef up the functions of airports in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It is necessary for the vision regarding the respective roles of Haneda and Narita to be clarified and for the two airports to play complementary roles.


Making the best use of the characteristics of both airports is crucial.


While Haneda has the advantage of its proximity to central Tokyo and around-the-clock flights, it is difficult to boost its capabilities further. Given the airport’s limited takeoff and landing slots, flight services catering to business travelers are prioritized.


An effective use of Narita also remains important. It has a terminal exclusively for low-cost carriers (LCCs), with the number of LCC flights continuing to increase. The number of passengers handled at the airport, including those using domestic services, set a record in 2018.


Narita plans to build its third runway and to have one of its existing runways extended by 2030. The airport plans to extend its operating hours and to increase the yearly number of takeoffs and landings from the current 300,000 to 500,000.


Wouldn’t it be realistic to have Haneda mainly handle flights to destinations in Europe and North America, whose demand runs high among companies, and to have Narita serve flights operated by LCCs, which chiefly cater to holidaymakers?


The number of passengers handled by the two airports and the number of destinations served is fewer than that of airports operating in other major cities in Asia such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul. In order to survive inter-city competition, cooperation between Haneda and Narita should be strengthened.


Considering the convenience for foreign visitors who extend their journeys to regional areas, efforts to improve the accessibility between the two airports via railways or buses must be made. An expansion of domestic flights serving Narita will also become an issue that needs to be considered.


— This article appeared in the print version of The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 20, 2020.

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