Airport news: Tokyo Narita Airport strikes back

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(eTN) – As Tokyo Haneda International Airport is ready to welcome, beginning in October, dozens of new international flights to Asia, Europe, and the United States, Tokyo Narita Airport – currently

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(eTN) – As Tokyo Haneda International Airport is ready to welcome, beginning in October, dozens of new international flights to Asia, Europe, and the United States, Tokyo Narita Airport – currently the main international gateway for the Japanese capital – has aggressive plans to retain and expand the number of airlines using its facilities. “We are evaluating various options to be more aggresive from a marketing point of view and offer new services to airlines,” said Hideharu Miyamoto, senior manager of strategic planning at Narita International Airport Corporation (NAA).

Haneda is expected to accommodate some seven million passengers a year. Will this translate into a similar number of lost passengers for Narita? Probably not, as the expanded second runway (2,500 m against 2,180 m previously) will help to welcome larger aircraft and significantly boost movement capacities from 220,000 to 270,000 per year.

The move should then balance the possible loss of passengers to Haneda. NAA management forecasts then a stagnation or slight growth over the next three years and forecasts a total growth of 5 percent until the end of 2012 at 34.5 million passengers. Last year, Narita airport welcomed 32.8 million passengers (-4 percent over 2008), with international traffic representing a market share of 62 percent. Compared to other airports in Northeast Asia, Narita offers more frequencies to Europe and North America but still lies behind Seoul, Hong Kong, or Shanghai for flights to Southeast Asia. “We will work on solutions to improve our hub functions, which is an essential tool to boost our market share and compete efficiently against Haneda,” said Miyamoto.

Planned investments of US$125 million over the next years will see the construction of new taxiways to speed up the turn-around of aircraft on the ground and build new bridges to offer convenient transfer for passengers flying the Airbus A380. The airport is looking to make night curfew more flexible to accommodate more flights. The objective is to further expand air traffic movements from 270,000 to 300,000 a year after 2014. Narita will also work with airlines to strengthen its domestic network to improve its hub function.

The airport already reduced its landing charges in the past few years by over 20 percent and could introduce further discounts for airlines flying new destinations or adding frequencies. “We are also looking to offer special incentives to charter airlines or even low-cost carriers, which wish to use Narita airport during off-peak hours,” added Miyamoto.

In the past, passengers have been using Narita rather by constraint than willingness, as the airport is located far away from Tokyo, some 60 km east of the capital. Trains are connecting Narita to the city center in roughly an hour’s time. This is also changing. On July 17, New Skyliner trains started linking every 20-40 minutes, Ueno and Nippori Stations in Central Tokyo to the airport in rougly 40 minutes, compared to 50-60 minutes by other trains. One-way fare for the New Skyliner costs 2,400 yen – cheaper than the regular fare of the Narita Express. “We believe that shortening travel time from Tokyo will boost our competitiveness,” said Miyamoto.

New trains will also offer direct connections between Narita and Haneda airports, finally providing a welcomed alternative to busses, and maybe even helping to create Tokyo’s dream of being a real integrated multi-airport hub .

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.