Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) – Review and Virtual Tour
Most visitors to Japan arrive at Narita International Airport, formerly known as New Tokyo International Airport. From Narita, the trip to Tokyo by taxi is typically more than an hour and the fastest train takes 36 minutes. There is, however, a closer alternative: Tokyo International Airport, which is more commonly referred to as Haneda. Haneda, adjacent to Tokyo Bay, is conveniently located in Tokyo itself and offers quick access to all parts of the city.
Over the past year, I’ve been through Haneda seven times, making it my most-visited airport outside of the U.S., where that title would go to John F. Kennedy International Airport. (I’ve flown between those two airports several times on American, the only airline with non-stop service on that route.) Haneda is also where ANA launched its new Boeing 787 Dreamliner routes and my first ever visit to Haneda was for a Dreamliner flight to Okayama.
Haneda is a mere 8.7 miles (14 kilometers) from Tokyo Station, the city’s largest intercity train terminal, versus 35.7 miles (57.5 kilometers) for Narita. Haneda is Asia’s second busiest airport and the world’s fifth busiest; only Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Beijing Capital International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and London Heathrow Airport, in that order, are busier.
Still, most foreign visitors fly into Narita, primarily because Haneda is thought of as domestic. Indeed, it does handle almost all domestic flights to and from Tokyo, while Narita handles the majority of international flights. That having been said, since 2010, a new international terminal has allowed Haneda to once again serve international traffic.
Haneda opened with one runway in 1931, serving destinations within Japan as well as Korea and Manchuria. It gained a second runway in 1939; at the same time, its original runway was extended.
Following the end of the Second World War, it was taken over by U.S. occupation forces and renamed Haneda Air Force Base. The first commercial flights started in 1947, when Northwest Orient Airlines began to offer service to the United States as well as to China, South Korea, and the Philippines. Part of the base was returned to the Japanese government in 1952 and this became the foundation of Tokyo International Airport. The remainder of the air force base was turned over to Japan six years later.
Around the same time, Japan Airlines, the country’s flag carrier, commenced domestic operations from Haneda, although a passenger terminal first opened in 1955. The terminal building was expanded to include an extension for international flights in 1963. Other carriers began flying into Haneda, including Air France, BOAC, and SAS, while Northwest Orient and Pan Am used Haneda as a hub.
A major change occurred in 1964, with the arrival of the Olympic Games in Japan and the start of Monorail service (formally, Tokyo Monorail Haneda Airport Line) from the airport to the city center. Passenger traffic increased greatly after restrictions on travel for Japanese citizens were lifted. In 1970, an international terminal and third runway opened but air travel growth outdistanced the airport’s capacity, resulting in the development of New Tokyo International Airport (Narita), which opened in 1978, taking over virtually all international operations from Haneda and leaving Haneda as a domestic facility.
Little changed until October 21, 2010, when the new International Terminal opened to passengers along with a fourth runway. The new expansion gave Haneda the ability to increase its operational capacity from 285,000 movements to 407,000 movements per year, opening 60,000 slots for overseas flights each year. The new terminal has a stop for the Monorail as well as for a commuter rail line.