Tokyo’s Haneda airport set to further marginalize Narita

Inside Haneda AIrport by Twang_Dunga via flickr/Creative Commons
Inside Haneda AIrport by Twang_Dunga via flickr/Creative Commons

How dead is Tokyo’s Narita airport as a hub for international air traffic? Delta is slashing flights, ending the 70ish year run of Tokyo as a hub for Northwest Airlines. That move comes on the heels of United’s similar dismantling of its hub born of Pan Am heritage (though, I argue, well Delta should have long been moving in that direction). And more cuts are likely by the end of the decade.

Those new cuts will arrive thanks to further growth at Haneda airport, the more convenient and accessible Tokyo airport just a few miles from the city center. Some 39,000 new arrival and departure slots are to be added at the airport by 2020, in time to help manage the influx of travelers for the Summer Olympics. With an extra 100ish daily aircraft movements and an expectation that they will be focused on international flights to accommodate the Olympic visitors (and other business travel once the Olympics end) and during the much desired daytime hours.

Making those slots happen is not without its challenges, however. Most notable: Changing the approach path for aircraft based on certain wind scenarios. Thanks to an agreement with the local municipalities – as well as increased us of newer, quieter aircraft and higher flight plans – the airport will see more planes flying over central Tokyo when the winds are from the South. This is more efficient for the aircraft and allows the planes to be spaced more closely together in those circumstances. It also means more planes over residential areas but meetings with the locals seems to have mitigated opposition to the plan.

The airport will also need to build new taxiways and other facilities to handle the aircraft flying in and out the “wrong” direction. The costs for that are to be included in the 2017 budget and the construction efforts are expected to take up to three years. But when it is all done – in time for the 2020 Olympics, officials promise – there will be many more travelers passing through Haneda Airport every year, further marginalizing the value of Narita.


Inside Haneda Airport by Twang_Dunga via flickr/Creative Commons

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. For UA passengers, the NH lounge at HND will be more crowded, and United Club pass holders will not be able to enter a lounge as they are able at NRT now.

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