Airlines Expand Tokyo Routes Following Runway Projects
The long-awaited second runway at Narita International Airport and a change in air traffic control measures at Haneda have allowed carriers to increase flights at both Tokyo airports, answering the rising demand for domestic and international service.
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Plans to create a second runway at Narita were established soon after the airport opened, but were thwarted due to lack of land. After years of negotiations with local farmers who refused to sell the nearly 12 acres of land required, the airport finally was able to construct a runway on property owned by the local municipality. The new runway opened on April 18, just in time for the World Cup, which is being held here.
The additional runway allowed American, Northwest, United and Japan airlines to expand Tokyo operations. American began daily service from New York JFK the day following the runway's opening. "The capacity to add additional service was not available until the runway was finished," said AA spokesperson Al Becker. American currently flies to Tokyo from Chicago and San Jose, Calif., as well as from Dallas Ft. Worth and New York.
Another carrier benefiting from the runway expansion, Northwest Airlines, on April 18 began service to Pusan, Korea, and Kaohsiung, Taiwan. "The Airbus A320 narrowbody aircraft can be used on the new runway, which is shorter," said Northwest spokesperson Kurt Eberhoch. Both Pusan and Kaohsiung are important ports and industrial centers, attracting many business travelers. The new services allow Northwest, which also flies to Seoul and Taipei, to serve the second largest cities of Korea and Taiwan.
Also on April 18, United Airlines launched daily nonstop service between Narita and Taipei. The new flights come on the heels of United's expanded codeshare alliance with Japan's All Nippon Airlines. United plans to increase code sharing arrangements with ANA on flights to Osaka Itami International Airport, as well as Fukuoka, Nagoya, Sapporo and Sendai.
Japan Airlines increased its Asian regional service on April 18, when it added a second daily flight to Shanghai, increased its Tokyo-Qingdao service from three to four flights per week and went from six flights per week to daily between Tokyo and Pusan. JAL on July 1 will increase its service to Seoul to three times a day.
Meanwhile, changes also are afoot at Haneda, Tokyo's other airport, which is primarily domestic but also handles some international traffic. The first development was construction of a third runway, which replaced a previously existing one.
"Haneda's new crosswind runway opened in 2000. However, the new runway does not contribute to the increase in slots," said Geoff Tudor, Japan Airlines spokesperson in Tokyo. "That has been made possible by new air traffic control measures, which shortened the separation time between aircraft departures, effectively allowing more flights. The slot increases were delivered in two lots. The first was in 2000. The second will be in July of this year."
The new measures have allowed Japan's two major domestic carriers to increase service. In July, Japan Airlines will launch service on three new domestic routes—three times daily to Yamaguchi-ube and Okayama and twice daily to Toyama.
All Nippon Airways will add a daily flight to each of six cities: Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Kagoshima, Okayama, Sapporo and Takamatsu. The additional flights will increase the total number of daily flights the airlines operate from Tokyo to these six cities to 55 roundtrips. These include 15 flights per day to Sapporo and Fukuoka, the largest cities and commercial centers of Japan's northern island of Hokkaido and southern island of Kyushu, respectively.
A new runway is not the only improvement taking place at Haneda. The airport additionally will open a new passenger terminal in 2005 that will allow the facility to expand and improve operations. The new terminal will provide extra passenger boarding bridges, eliminating the need for bus transport to and from a number of aircraft. It also will provide more terminal space for new entrants, such as Skymark and Air Do, Tudor said. Both Skymark and Air Do (Air Hokkaido), which began flying several years ago, were created after Japan's airline industry was deregulated.
The new terminal is greatly needed, officials said. "Haneda currently handles 60 million passengers per year, which makes it the world's sixth busiest airport," Tudor said. "We have no special forecast, but the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation estimated that total domestic air travel demand will average an increase of 2.2 percent per annum in the period of 2000 through 2007. Now, of the total number of 90 million domestic passengers carried every year in Japan, 60 million, or 66 percent, go through Haneda."
Future plans for air traffic in Tokyo include a further expansion at Haneda, with the construction of a new fourth runway in about 10 years, followed eventually by a fourth airport to be built after 2030. "This is the view of the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan, a trade organization of the major Japanese carriers, and generally agreed to by the Ministry of Transportation and others," Tudor said. With the recent expansion of Narita and Haneda, airport capacity in the metropolitan area should be able to cope until 2030 or thereabouts."