When Haneda Airport’s new international terminal and fourth runway opens on Oct 21, government officials hope this will be the first step toward Japan having a 24-hour airport hub to compete with other Asian airports. Amid the current recession, the stakes are enormous for airlines, travel agencies, regional industries and even Narita Airport.
Japan Airport Terminal Co (JATC), which operates Haneda airport, says it expects some 7 million passengers per year to use the new terminal, whose construction began in May 2008. Some 90,000 slots a year have been allocated to international flights. JATC is forecasting the number of international passengers to grow from 5 million in fiscal 2010 to 8 million in fiscal 2011 and to 8.6 million the following year. To date, the only international flights from Haneda have been short-distance hops to South Korea, China and Hong Kong, but by next year, flights from the airport will be operating to 49 domestic cities and 15 cities.
During a recent “open house” ahead of the opening, JATC officials were out in force, showcasing the new terminal which is located only 15 kilometers from the heart of Tokyo. The five-story building has 74 shops and restaurants in areas accessible to all visitors and 31 stores in the security area for passengers who have completed embarkation procedures. It also features a planetarium and a section with interior design and replicas of stores recreating the Edo period (1603-1867) on the upper floors.
Utilizing the 10 aircraft parking bays, more than a dozen airlines will start regular international flights from Oct 31, with new slots linking Tokyo with several overseas cities, including Taipei, Bangkok, Singapore, Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Paris. In November, a service will start to Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia), and in January, flights will commence to Vancouver, New York and Detroit. Daytime operations (classified as those between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.) will center on flights between Haneda and destinations in China, South Korea and the rest of East Asia, while night-time operations (10 p.m. to 7 a.m.) will accommodate flights to Europe, the U.S. and some other Asian destinations.
Getting to Haneda will certainly be a lot easier than heading out to Narita, if you live in Tokyo. Keihin Electric Express Railway Co (Keikyu) has a service to a new station located adjacent the terminal, as does Tokyo Monorail Co which will transport passengers from Hamamatsucho Station in 15 minutes. To help visitors, Keikyu has a tourist information booth at its station for the airport's international terminal building with concierges skilled in English, Chinese and Korean. Tourists can purchase train tickets. East Japan Railway Co (JR East) will open a similar information office, while Ota Ward has an information booth.
Since early summer, travel agencies have been promoting campaigns, advertising cheap weekend fares to Asian destinations, from where the bulk of passengers to the new international terminal are expected to come. JTB is selling package tours to 22 overseas cities, including one to the U.S. West Coast that allows passengers to fly between Haneda and other domestic airports for 1,000 yen per round trip. The biggest demand is coming for tours that leave late at night on a Friday and return to Haneda by early Monday morning, thus allowing quick weekend getaways to places such as Taiwan, Bali, South Korea and China.
JAL, ANA favored with time slots
Japanese airlines ANA and JAL, and low-cost carriers such as Malaysia’s AirAsia X, are certainly in the best position to take advantage of the new international terminal. JAL will operate seven daily flights to six international destinations - Paris, San Francisco, Honolulu, Bangkok, Taipei's Songshan airport and Singapore. That is in addition to its current daily flights from Haneda to Seoul (Gimpo), Shanghai (Hongqiao), Beijing and Hong Kong. Counting the new international routes and an increase in one daily flight to Gimpo this autumn, JAL will be operating a total of 10 international routes with 12 daily flights. JAL President and CEO Masaru Onishi told a news conference: “With JAL's extensive domestic operations at the hub, passengers can make smooth connections from our new international flights to many other destinations in Japan.”
Rival ANA will start flying from Haneda to Los Angeles, Honolulu, Singapore, Bangkok, and Taipei (Songshan). ANA officials said they are counting on the airline's fast connections to its domestic network. The carrier is also planning to establish a low-cost carrier by the end of this year with a plan to start serving customers in the second half of fiscal 2011 through March 2012.
Meanwhile, some of the new entrants in the market have high hopes for Haneda. In September, Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia X announced with much fanfare a service connecting Kuala Lumpur and Haneda from Dec 9. A special campaign is offering tickets for 5,000 yen if they are booked before Oct 31. After the campaign, tickets will cost from 10,000 yen to 22,000 yen for economy class. “This day has been a long time coming; we have been planning our entry of service into the Japanese market for well over two years,” AirAsia X Chief Executive Officer Azran Osman-Rani told a press conference. “We want to make travel more affordable for the broader population in Malaysia who can visit the huge diverse culture of Japan and we equally wish to extend to the Japanese to come visit us, to our exotic islands.”
Another new entrant is Hawaiian Airlines which begins a service from Honolulu to Haneda on Nov 17. Its outbound flight will depart Haneda daily at 11:59 p.m. and arrive at Honolulu International Airport at 12:05 p.m. the same day. It leaves Honolulu daily at 6:05 p.m., arriving at Haneda at 10:05 p.m. the next night. Initially, Hawaiian will use a Boeing 767-300ER aircraft seating up to 264 passengers before introducing its larger 294-seat Airbus A330-200 aircraft onto the route. The airline is counting on Japanese customers taking the late-night flight after a full day’s work.
Among other Asian carriers, Singapore Airlines will fly twice daily from Haneda to Changi airport from Nov 1, in addition to its current two daily flights to Narita. On the same day, Thai Airways launches a daily flight to Bangkok. Taiwan-based Eva Airways, Malaysian Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways all have services planned.
However, the European and U.S. carriers (other than Hawaiian) face the biggest challenges because of the 10 p.m.-7 a.m. time slots. For example, American (to and from LA) and Delta (Detroit, LA) have to keep their planes on the tarmac at Haneda for several hours after their arrival during the early morning (with exorbitant parking fees), whereas ideally, they would like to turn their aircraft around as quickly as possible and get them in the air again. They can't schedule flights from Haneda before 7 a.m. because passengers don't like early-morning flights, nor is it convenient for connecting flights from other Japanese cities. British Airways’ five-times-a-week service to Haneda, that begins on Feb 19, 2011, will depart from London Heathrow at 8 a.m. and arrive at Haneda at 5 a.m. Its planes, too, must stay on the ground at Haneda all day before a late-night departure.
How will Narita be affected?
One big question is how Haneda’s new international terminal will affect Narita. Last year, then Transport Minister Seiji Maehara said he hoped to see Tokyo's Haneda airport become a 24-hour Asian hub, whereby more flights on their way to Asian destinations would use Haneda instead of Narita.
Maehara ruffled a lot of feathers with that remark, which he apparently made off the cuff and not as a matter of policy. Maehara said that having Haneda as a hub airport would bolster Japan’s competitiveness because it is lagging behind others as airline and airport competition heats up on a global scale. He cites as an example South Korea’s Incheon airport, which has three runways for international arrivals and departures and has overtaken Narita in terms of the number of planes in service and the volume of cargo handled.
But in terms of international capacity, Haneda -- with its 90,000 international slots a year -- can’t compete with Narita which currently has 220,000 slots and plans to expand that figure to 300,000 by the start of fiscal 2014. Haneda airport officials said the late-night flights to Asia will draw some passengers away from Narita. For example, if you’re flying to South Korea, why take two or three hours to get out to Narita for a two-hour flight when you can get to Haneda in 15 minutes?
In July, a new high-speed railway line, Narita Sky Access, was launched, linking central Tokyo with Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture in 36 minutes. The Skyliner train, operated by Keisei Electric Railway Co, runs at 160 kilometers per hour, and cuts the minimum travel time between Nippori Station in Tokyo and Narita by 15 minutes to 36 minutes. There are 54 services a day to and from Narita, with a one-way ticket costing 2,400 yen for an adult.
Meanwhile, taking advantage of the opening of the new international terminal, the Tokyo Tourism Promotion Center will hold a special welcome campaign from Oct 21-Nov 20, by distributing 10,000 welcome kits and surveys to foreign travelers using the new international terminal. Those who answer the survey will receive a present.© Japan Today