TOKYO — Japanese airlines and other industries are abuzz with excitement over the potential impact of regular international flights from Tokyo’s Haneda airport when a new, spacious international terminal and fourth runway are opened on Oct. 21.
“This will provide a very good business opportunity for the airlines of Japan, and it will also provide extra opportunities for other foreign airlines notably from Asia, which can benefit from the high-yield traffic that Haneda will generate,” said Geoffrey Tudor, a principal analyst at Japan Aviation Management Research.
Up until now, Haneda airport, despite its close proximity to central Tokyo, mainly served as a domestic airport and operated only short-distance chartered international flights to South Korea, China and Hong Kong.
Starting Oct. 31, Haneda airport, officially known as Tokyo International Airport, will be connected to 49 domestic cities and 15 cities that include New York, San Francisco, Honolulu, Paris, and popular Southeast Asian holiday destinations such as Bangkok, Taipei, Singapore and Kota Kinabalu.
Another plus, Tudor said, is improved connections between domestic and international flights, which makes it easier for people coming from other prefectures to fly overseas.
Yoichi Hirai, vice president of corporate planning of Tokyo International Air Terminal Corp., said, “Expectations for Haneda’s international flights are considerably high. Now, businessmen can catch evening flights even after work, which was not possible if they were to fly from Narita.”
The airport is expected to draw 7 million users per year and 30,000 annual takeoff and landing slots for daytime international flights from this month, which will be boosted to 60,000 by fiscal 2013, and eventually up to 90,000 slots, Hirai said.
So far, about 20 airlines plan to fly to and from Haneda. They include Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Thai Airways, Taiwan-based Eva Airways, Malaysian Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines.
The new terminal for the airport’s regular international flights will operate round the clock and begin business Oct. 21.
With a total floor space of some 160,000 square meters, it is a five-story building with 105 shops and restaurants, a section with scenery recreating the Edo period (1603-1868) to reflect Japanese culture, and a planetarium.
Government data shows that Haneda’s fourth runway will boost capacity from 303,000 arrival and departure slots a year now to 447,000 by fiscal 2013.
Japanese travel agencies are ecstatic over the first substantial increase in international flights since the 1978 opening of Narita international airport, the recognized gateway of Japan, which is about an hour bus or trade ride to Tokyo.
Haneda can now be accessed in as fast as 13 minutes from central Tokyo thanks to rapid trains of Keihin Electric Express Railway Co., or Keikyu, and Tokyo Monorail Co.
JTB Corp. said it is offering package tours to 22 overseas cities that will leave from the airport between October and January, and allow customers to fly between Haneda and other domestic airports for 1,000 yen ($12.20) per round trip.
Railways such as Keikyu and East Japan Railway Co. offer tourist information booths at their stations for the airport’s international terminal building, with staff skilled in English, Chinese and Korean, the languages of many of Japan’s visitors.
But Haneda still faces hurdles to achieving former transport minister Seiji Maehara’s goal of making it a 24-hour international hub, with Tudor citing “infrastructural problems” such as the limited capacity of Haneda in terms of terminal and aircraft parking space to deal with the future goal of 90,000 arrival and departure slots a year.
Tudor said even with the 90,000 daytime slots, it is still less than half of Narita’s capacity of about 220,000 annual slots.