Haneda suffers after Japan earthquake
Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, which opened a fourth runway and a new terminal in October 2010 with the goal of becoming a 24-hour international hub, has seen passenger traffic plunge since East Japan was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in March.
While there is still no accurate data available on the decline of passenger traffic, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism (MLITT) in Tokyo estimates a drop of about 20-22 percent since before the disaster struck on 11 March. Demand for premium travel dropped sharply after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resultant damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
A 6.7 magnitude 32km earthquake that took place off the island of Honshu on 23 June could further dampen hopes of a quick recovery. Haneda had been counting on significant growth after its expansion, as airline demand for new slots at the airport was high.
The airport is popular with travellers thanks to its proximity to Central Tokyo. Haneda is located 17km from Tokyo Station, and 13 minutes by express train from Shinagawa Station. By comparison, Tokyo’s main international airport, Narita, is 57.5km from Tokyo Station.
With Haneda’s expansion, the Japanese government had forecast an additional 2.3 million foreign tourists would visit Japan every year, with the number of outbound Japanese travellers expected to increase by about 4.1 million. MLITT now says it will take several years before these numbers are realised.
The Ministry believes the number of foreigners travelling to Japan this year will drop as some tourists have opted for other destinations due to radiation fears and business travellers have postponed their trips. Some airlines have also reduced capacity on some routes to Japan.
In 2010, Haneda handled 69.05 million passengers, an increase of 11.5 percent over the previous year. It was the second busiest airport in Asia after Beijing Capital International Airport, which handled 73.9 million passengers.
In an effort to lure tourists back to Japan, the Japan National Tourism Organisation has set up websites in English, Chinese and Korean to provide current levels of radiation to foreign governments and airlines flying into Japan.
Haneda had its fair share of problems when it opened, as landing and take-off slots for flights to the US and Europe were restricted to midnight and the early hours of the day. This was a major setback to travellers, as no train and bus services to the airport were available during these hours.
Prior to its expansion, Haneda was the main domestic airport serving the Tokyo metropolitan area, after international flight flights were transferred to Narita when that facility opened in 1978.