The New “New” Tokyo International Airport

Here’s a look at the most hotly anticipated airport terminal building in the world – Tokyo Haneda’s international terminal.

In October 21, Haneda’s new international terminal opened its doors to international flights. Previously, there were “scheduled-charters” arrangements in place providing “city-to-city” connections to major city’s domestic airports which were closer to the city’s downtown compared to the international airports. For a city like Tokyo especially, the opening up of Haneda represents a good opportunity because firstly, Narita airport is 72km from downtown Tokyo compared to Haneda’s 20km distance. Secondly, due to civil protests by farmers at Narita, the airport is crippled by a curfew every night and is hemmed in at all sides, preventing any form of expansion. “City-to-city” links with Seoul-Gimpo, Shanghai-Hongqiao, Beijing-Capital and more recently Taipei-Songshan and Hong Kong have been available for quite a while. But it wasn’t until a conscientious effort by the Japanese government to expand Haneda to accommodate international flights that really kicked start what’s probably the biggest thing that’s happened to Asia in recent years. However, the intention of Haneda is not to replace Narita, which would be ironic considering that Narita was built to replace Haneda, but to compliment – except for the earlier mentioned destinations, all other international flights are only allowed to fly to Haneda from 10pm to 7am.

Presently, only selected countries are allowed to fly to Haneda, which includes the United States, Canada, Malaysia, Korea, China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Thailand, France, United Kingdom, but this number is expected to grow as Japan signs more liberal bilateral air rights and “open-skies” agreement.

While flights to Asia have so far seen satisfactory loads, it appears that flights longer than 10 hours are not doing well. The times allowed at Haneda means that any flight schedule is biased towards Japanese travelers. This is very evident in the fact that Japan Airlines and ANA’s flights to the US West Coast do not allow for onward connections into the American heartland, which means the flights rely solely on “city-to-city” traffic. On top of that, these flights have to compete with duplicated flights to and from Narita, which reconciliates Asian, American and European travelers better. So for now, Haneda is not about to shake the foundations of Northeast Asian aviation anytime soon. However, there are signs for change: and there is a slow movement to remove the curfew at Haneda AND expand the airport with more terminals and additional runways to realize its full potential of being a Northeast Asian gateway.

Let’s look at the airlines out of Tokyo (both Narita and Haneda) to Singapore, shall we?

All Nippon Airways (ANA)

  • Biggest Japanese airline on the Tokyo-Singapore route, 2 daily flights to Narita and 1 daily to Haneda
  • Offers connections to Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York-JFK and Washington-Dulles
  • ANA debuted its new regional product aboard brand new Boeing 767s on the Haneda-Singapore route considering the competition (5 airlines on the Tokyo-Singapore route)

Japan Airlines

  • Japan Airlines offers a daily flight each to Haneda and Narita
  • As an aviation enthusiast, I’m particularly sad with what has happened to Japan Airlines so far – the retirement of its entire Airbus A300 and Boeing 747 fleet… the return back to its original livery (above)

Delta Air Lines

  • The airline offers a daily service to Narita
  • Delta operates a scissor-hub at Narita, allowing for connections to Saipan, Honolulu, Seattle, Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis/St Paul, New York-JFK, Portland OR, Los Angeles and San Francisco

United Airlines

  • United offers a daily flight to Narita
  • Onward connections to Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago-O’Hare, Houston, NY-Newark, Washington-Dulles
  • United and ANA have been authorised to sell flights as if they are a single airline, so if you’re flying to the US, especially on Economy Class, do pick the ANA flights for better service (although it has slacked in recent years)
  • Besides Singapore Airlines, United is the only airline that offers First Class on the Tokyo-Singapore route

Singapore Airlines

  • Singapore Airlines is the largest player on the Tokyo-Singapore route
  • By August, Singapore Airlines will be operating Airbus A330s, Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s on the route
  • The airline’s Economy Class product can vary from 3-star to 4-star standards – as a precaution, do remember that you’re safest on an Airbus aircraft. As for Boeing, make sure you’re flying on the “B777-300ER” or “B77W”

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