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Narita's main stumbling block is its indifference toward travelers

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A "group of four" composed of officials of the national government, the Narita International Airport Corporation, Chiba Prefecture and local government bodies convened on Sept 27 to discuss plans for construction of a third runway, to be 3,500 meters long, at Narita Airport. The participants also confirmed guidelines for the shortening of the late-night and early morning curfew hours currently in force, made possible by relaxation of noise restrictions. Currently arriving and departing flights are banned between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Once agreements are ironed out, plans are to reduce the time by three hours, from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.

Writing in Yukan Fuji (Oct 8), business pundit Kenichi Ohmae writes that the day's first arrival at Narita is usually from Australia, but the arrival time had to be adjusted to deal with the airport's curfew, making for wasted time at both ends of his journey.

Most of the world's major airports operate round the clock, and Narita's being hobbled by the curfew has caused it to lose out in the competition among Asia's regional hubs. Tokyo's Haneda Airport, by contrast, boasts four runways and operates on a 24-hour basis, making it Asia's top airport. And once flights directly over the city commence, Haneda will become even more convenient.

The decision back in the late 1960s to proceed with Narita rather than expand Haneda through land reclamation in Tokyo Bay was based on a study by a certain research group (Ohmae's not naming names) which found that building costs at Narita would be 5 billion yen cheaper. But when total costs are taken into account concerning the move from Haneda to Narita and various noise-abatement efforts, 5 billion yen is just a drop in the bucket.

Actually a similar situation existed in Kansai, since the old Itami Airport required planes to fly over residential areas. But travelers found that despite its round-the-clock operation, the new "floating" Kansai International Airport was inconveniently located, so Itami remained in use. Naturally after the new airport was completed at horrendous expense, the public was clamoring for someone in the former Ministry of Transport to blame it on. (Shades of the current flap over the Tsukiji fish market move!)

Ohmae accuses the airport operators of being "mushinkei" (insensitive). A prime example is Narita's inconveniently located third terminal, built to service travelers on LCCs (low-cost carriers). As it's not served by the rail lines that terminate in the airport's basement, access requires a long bus ride from Terminal 2 (or a half-kilometer hike). The dining facilities at Terminal 3 also seem to say, "If you blokes are so poor, this is all you get to eat." Is such a parsimonious approach really necessary?

As long as the people running Narita continue to display this kind of insensitivity, Ohmae sums up, it stands no chance of competing for international air travelers. Even, say, if flights from Australia are able to land an hour earlier, at 5 a.m. instead of 6 a.m., Narita's operators might as well be telling them, "The trains aren't running yet. Please start walking to your next destination."

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kurisupisu at Oct. 12, 2016 - 09:23AM JST For people in Kansai, KIX is convenient to use. Residents are not bothered overly as the site is located out to sea. With a little bit of vision it could be a regenerative hub if allowed to be a round the clock operation. However, the reality is that Japan will never win this accolade as it is too far from anywhere! The airport doesn't float as the article states but it has been sinking at a constant rate. Recent flooding in the underground car parks is a testimony to that!

Really? It's a pain in the backside. From Himeji it takes 2 hours by bus or 1:50 by train and bus. Most people I know usually book a hotel in Sannomiya the night before.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My only gripe about Narita is the distance from the Skyliner to the departures hall... how many floors is that we have to haul our luggage through. Yes there are escalators but still.

..

They do have elevators you know.

There was a time about 12 years ago when you could buy a real pint of Guinness

I certainly don't rate airports by availability of Guinness.

As for how great Changi is, perhaps I am one of the few that don't like the place. Long walks to security, additional gate security which you have to go through again.

I do have one suggestion for Narita...how about keeping that arrival hall (immigration/customs) at a normal temperature? Always feels like a sweatbox.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So..much..whining!!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Where else could they have put KIX? Not a lot of open available land in the Kobe-Osaka area that would be suitable for building runways long enough for widebody jet landings, that would in addition be away from residential areas.

My problem with KIX is 'you can't get theya from heeya', they've cancelled so many routes it's ridiculous. The East Coast of the US doesn't exist in the KIX planner's world, which seems to consist of LA, Vancouver,and Honolulu. The only route east of that is the one route to New York. Minneapolis, Detroit, Dallas and others nixed over the years. To get to the East Coast (unless you want to suffer going through JFK) you're forced to go to Tokyo. To add insult to injury, you to go to Tokyo for flights leaving at 4-9pm, but you have to take one of two morning flights that get you there by 9:30 am, because they cancelled the 12:30pm flight out of KIX to Narita about 18 months ago. If I could get to the US East coast as easily out of KIX as I used to be able to, the location of the airport would not faze me at all. It would be so much better to take a bus for an hour than the 4-hour trek to Narita that's necessary now.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Flew out, and back into, Haneda last month. The new international terminal is beautiful to look at, lots of shops. But, 90%of it closing down before 10o'clock, even the little donqui shop, who are open until well past midnight at normal locations. Loved the USB plugs for all seats in the departure lounge, makes life much easier, hope this becomes standard soon worldwide. As for access, took the airport bus from Haneda to Tokyo station for the Shinkansen once. Sounds very straight and convinient, but: The bus stops at the opposite side from the station, so you have to cross a huge road (6 lanes?) and we were with 2 kids, baby buggy and 3 suitcases. And this being Tokyo, nobody will bother to help you. Never again, rather would take a taxi if I had to. This year we took shared-taxi directly home to Karuizawa, best thing ever, the driver even helped with unpacking the bags till the front door.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Totally agree. Crap airport considering it's Japan's main entry point. They don't even have a bar!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The wife & I love Narita for the 'farewell Japanese meal' in the nice restaurants before flying home after a wonderful stay in Tokyo. Haneda is for arriving in Tokyo and quickly getting to the hotel.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Seriously? It's in the middle of nowhere. Osaka Airport is in a much better location. I always feel sorry for those who live in Kobe or Kyoto/Shiga when flying out of KIX. The bus service is great but it isn't cheap.

This. Coming from near Kyoto I'd prefer using Itami. They really ought to build a new airport in the northern part near Kyoto, that would make travel a lot easier for tourists who mostly/mainly visit Kansai for Kyoto anyway :P

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japan really does not get that the "omotenashi" they offer is NOT what foreign tourists want or need.

Compared to the relatively poor service encountered in much of the US/UK/EU many would disagree.

The downside to omotenashi is that too many westerners mistaken it for obsequiousness and let it get to their head inflating their ego.

Japan is out in 'left field' and not a major hub to other destinations unlike SGP/HK. As such there is no incentive to promote itself as an attractive stop-over unlike others.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Living in Kobe i just use KIX to go abroad

2 ( +2 / -0 )

kobe is fine if your using KIX, you can take the Kobe~KIX ferry takes only 31minutes and you can park your car at the ferry terminal free up to 30 days, longer if you tell them in advance.

IF you live near downtown Kobe it is great. People out in places like Sanda... It's a nightmare.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I always feel sorry for those who live in Kobe or Kyoto/Shiga when flying out of KIX. kobe is fine if your using KIX, you can take the Kobe~KIX ferry takes only 31minutes and you can park your car at the ferry terminal free up to 30 days, longer if you tell them in advance.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

...a drop in the bucket

Umm...perhaps 'ocean' was the metaphor they were after.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

From Kyushu Incheon is a far more attractive option. Closer and easier. Even Shanghai will soon have the edge on Tokyo. It's also closer, but Chinese airlines still have some work to do so far as standards and punctuality.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

My only gripe about Narita is the distance from the Skyliner to the departures hall... how many floors is that we have to haul our luggage through. Yes there are escalators but still... Leaving Narita, having the queue at passport control is a pain, but I suppose most big airports are like that... (I connect through Amsterdam so not an issue and my own airport, Glasgow, is nowhere near as big or as busy).

Leaving Narita to go home is different... there are shops yes, but not that many offering anything other than tourist tat.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Before making negative comments about Narita, you should read this document first.

http://www.naa.jp/en/2016/04/25/docs/20160425-cyuukikeieikeikaku-en.pdf

It provide a broad plan to open more more shops, particularly the 5th Avenue, and renovations as well.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Narita would be more convenient with more domestic connections. I'm in Japan's 4th largest city, and there are only a couple of flights per day from Narita.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Yubaru, why don't you just fly via ICN fro OKA.......

I do when I have to fly throughout Asia. But when flying to the US it's inevitably been through Narita.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Good article that hits the points. Would love to fly more out of Haneda than Narita, but they keep the airlines at bay in not allowing better departure/arrival times.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Used Terminal 3 last week for the first time for a cheap 3 day weekend in Hong Kong...convenient flight schedule, but wow...it felt like I had found the ghetto of Japan.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@Yubaru, isn't it easier to fly to Taiwan TaoYuan or Incheon and then transfer to an onward destination? I am curious...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I always hated having to take the bus from Haneda to Narita when flying from Okinawa and going abroad. Going through Kansai was fine, right after it opened, but now, that too is a pain in the arse.

Yubaru, why don't you just fly via ICN fro OKA.......

Having to dragging a heavy suitcase along over 500m of rubberized track between terminals was an experience I would like to forget.

PMonkey, in case you don't know there is a bus at Terminal 2 that will take you much closer to Terminal 3 if you don't feel like stretching your legs!

NRT is ok, not great for sure but I find it easy to use, functional in a kind of quick easy but not exciting way, in over 25years it seldom takes me more than 45min to clear immigration, get bags & pass Customs max!, in fact I often do it in half that time!

NRT is more convenient than HND because I live closer to NRT in the sticks a bit & its a super easy drive to park & fly & yeah parking is CHEAP & easy to use

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Anybody that has been through Changi in Singapore and then comes to Narita feels like it is going back in time.

With the exception maybe of Incheon after going through Changi just about every airport feels like one is going back in time! I could literally live at Chiangi and love every minute of it!

4 ( +6 / -2 )

"The decision back in the late 1960s to proceed with Narita rather than expand Haneda ", do not underestimate the power of those with vested interest... even back then. Me... I think they should move Yokota AB to Narita and visa versa. Although Yokota only has one runway now.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Narita's much more convenient for us, and we always drive there. The off-airport parking really is a bargain, with very prompt service. But that's it, really.

We were very impressed by Haneda a few months ago, though. The amenities, decor and overall experience beat Narita hands down.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Narita is far from reaching the greatness of Korea and Singapore's airports

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I live about 250km from Tokyo but I like Narita. I like it because it's easy to drive to and cheap to park there. You can leave your car for a month for about 5000 yen or at least you could until two years ago, the last time I did. There are lots of huge parking lots a short distance away who will shuttle you to the airport, or collect your car at it for a small fee. Hotels near the airport are also good value and will give you two weeks free parking if you stay one night, such as if you need to catch a morning flight, like many to Europe. On the way back, we also get to call in at the biggest Costco in Japan to stock up on groceries after arriving back in the country.

Parking at Haneda is much more limited, is way more expensive, and really needs to be booked in advance. Getting to Haneda also involves driving on a much busier part of the metropolitan expressway.

Taking my family to the airport return via public transport would take longer, would be way more hassle with luggage (or cost with Kuroneko), and cost me at least 60,000 yen more than driving.

Regarding the poor location of the LCC terminal, people using LCC in other countries get to use pokey airports in the middle of nowhere, often with terrible links to main hubs and city centers. 0.5km out of the way at Narita is hardly an inconvenience. For comparison, the platforms for that train line that goes to Chiba/Disneyland feel like they are well over 500m away from the center of Tokyo Station. Thousands of people will walk that every day.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Narita has no serious foreign food restaurants, even in their international wing.

I beg to differ. The arcade in Terminal 1 has an excellent Chinese place, affordable and tasty, that serves Shaanxi-style "dao xiao mian" (noodles flayed from a roll of dough while held over a wok full of boiling water). If I fly out of Narita in the afternoon I almost always eat lunch there. Never had a bad meal.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Narita has no serious foreign food restaurants, even in their international wing.

Have you been to Chubu or KIX??? Shockingly poor. Honestly, someone needs to go to Singapore and take a look at what Changi offers. For a country that keeps harping on about wanting more tourists, Japan really does not get that the "omotenashi" they offer is NOT what foreign tourists want or need.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

Narita has no serious foreign food restaurants, even in their international wing.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Japanese have a 3-word putdown that fits Narita to the proverbial "T." 「遠い、貴い、不便」(tooi, takai, fuben) -- distant, expensive and inconvenient.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Narita is a lot better than it used to be. Terminals were expanded and the Keisei Skyliner is faster and more frequent than before. Still, it's mediocre when compared to Singapore, Hong Kong or Vancouver.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

For people in Kansai, KIX is convenient to use.

Seriously? It's in the middle of nowhere. Osaka Airport is in a much better location. I always feel sorry for those who live in Kobe or Kyoto/Shiga when flying out of KIX. The bus service is great but it isn't cheap.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I use Narita frequently for travel to the US, and Haneda flights are generally infrequent or too expensive for my budget. Narita airport is airy, clean and suitable for me, however, due to the distance, I have to take a 1.5 hour bus which means getting to the hotel with the bus (1 hour), plus the bus (1.5-2 hours), plus 2 hours in advance of the flight, so about 5 hours before my long arsed flight I have to leave home. In case of Haneda, it is a 30 minute cab ride from my home,,,

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Yes both Narita and Haneda are really boring once you're through security, built to Japanese functional specifications only I think, without user experience taken into account, like a lot of buildings here.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Last train departing at 10:40pm means its risky to take any plane landing after 9pm (in case of delays). Airport limousine bus costs 3000yen, as do any of the fast train options, making it a very expensive journey for even a small family. Recent additions of cheaper night buses does help, but being able to get to/from Haneda using cheap trains from very early until quite late makes it the preferred choice

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Every airport here that I have traveled through has been pretty poor. Narita is in the middle of nowhere and immigration lines are bad. Kansai has limited options if you need to check in hours ahead - both in and out of the gates. Chubu is great OUTSIDE the gate but once you go though, there is nothing. Not even a coffee shop/Starbucks - is one for domestic though. You go to places like Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong and there are a million shops, things to do, places to charge your phone (Chubu is actually good for this), free computers... The only positive thing I can say about all the airports here is that they have a place for kids to play. That and they have water fountains.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

For people in Kansai, KIX is convenient to use. Residents are not bothered overly as the site is located out to sea. With a little bit of vision it could be a regenerative hub if allowed to be a round the clock operation. However, the reality is that Japan will never win this accolade as it is too far from anywhere! The airport doesn't float as the article states but it has been sinking at a constant rate. Recent flooding in the underground car parks is a testimony to that!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Having to dragging a heavy suitcase along over 500m of rubberized track between terminals was an experience I would like to forget.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

There is the right way and the Japanese way. Narita airport after immigration has always been a nasty experience. There was a time about 12 years ago when you could buy a real pint of Guinness but since then there are those curry rice noodle shops and sandwiches with spaghetti in. A Dotour. Recently a wallet busting sushi bar but that seems to have gone now. Anybody that has been through Changi in Singapore and then comes to Narita feels like it is going back in time.

10 ( +14 / -4 )

I have pretty much given up on Narita now the flights I generally tend to use are at better times from Haneda, not to mention Haneda being quicker to get to and from.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I could hardly agree more. But Kansai International is not much different. Officially it is 24 hour but there are just a few night flights to keep up this impression. There are practically no services after 10:00 pm, even airside, and no trains. "Gateway to Asia" it proudly proclaims. Yeah, right!

10 ( +11 / -1 )

At least the airport's better than it was in the 1980's when there was a huge stormtrooper presence. On a Narita theme, Narita-san, where for the first time I watched a car being blessed, is a wonderful place to visit.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I always hated having to take the bus from Haneda to Narita when flying from Okinawa and going abroad. Going through Kansai was fine, right after it opened, but now, that too is a pain in the arse.

Haneda is so much more convenient now and if I have the option, I stay the hell out of Narita.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

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