Haneda vs. Narita: Which Airport To Choose?

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  • Many people visiting or living in Tokyo spend some time debating which airport to choose, Haneda or Narita. The general consensus has always been that Haneda was the overwhelming number one option because of its proximity to Tokyo, which is why numerous airlines started salivating when Haneda announced that they were going to increase international flight capacity thanks to the newly approved routes that fly above the city. ANA and JAL were, of course, the big winners. The Japanese carriers’ opted to move many of their flights from Narita to Haneda while also announcing some new routes. As for the American carriers, Delta had been wishing to close its Narita hub for years, and after the decisions were made, were able to move all of their remaining Narita flights to Haneda.

    by Martin Danker

    Other airlines that were able to secure slots at Haneda include Aeroflot, Alitalia, American, China Eastern, China Southern, Finnair, Qantas, S7, SAS, Turkish, United, and Virgin Australia.

    With other airlines like Lufthansa having left Narita years ago, airlines like Delta, SAS leaving, and ANA and JAL moving many of their flights to Handa, one could easily see that airlines and passengers preferred Haneda. However, that’s not always the case, and Narita is continuing to see new routes as well.

    Therefore, which airport should you choose?

    For Business Travelers: Haneda

    If you are visiting Tokyo on business, maximizing your time is of the utmost priority. Since Haneda is very close to the city center, reaching one’s hotel or office can be done quickly and efficiently. The same can be said about reaching the airport from one’s office. That’s why businesspeople tend to head to their offices in the morning with their carry-ons already in hand and, after working a few hours, leave for Haneda so they can go on their respective business trips.

    For LCCs: Narita

    While Haneda does have routes served by low cost carriers (and continues to be a hub for Skymark), Narita has a larger number of airlines and flights.

    As Haneda becomes a stronger airport hub for business travelers, Narita has been growing as a hub for LCCs, which is why Narita Airport constructed Terminal 3 in 2015 exclusively for low cost carriers.

    As a result, Narita now serves as a hub for Peach, Jetstar Japan, and Zipair Tokyo (JAL’s newest LCC). With these airlines plus the presence of other LCCs like Cebu Pacific, Thai Lion, Thair AirAsia X, Air Seoul, and Air Busan, Narita has become the to-go airport for anyone wishing to travel across Japan, East Asia, and Southeast Asia in a more economical way.

    For Those Traveling To East Asia: Haneda

    If your plan is to travel from or to cities in East Asia, then Haneda is the better option. Just like Tokyo, cities like Shanghai, Seoul, and Taiwan have other international airports that are located closer to the city centers. Haneda offers routes to Shanghai Hongqiao, Gimpo, and Songhsan, which allows people traveling between Tokyo and those metropolis to get to hotels and offices far more rapidly than if flying from Narita to Shanghai Pudong, Incheon, and Taoyuan.

    For Leisure Routes: Narita

    One of ANA’s most successful strategies was to focus on premium routes that were mostly important for business. As a result, ANA does not serve any leisure routes besides the incredibly profitable ones to Honolulu.

    If one wants to go to Hawaii, going to either Narita or Haneda would be okay. However, one of the most visible trends is that Narita is the airport that has all the other flights to leisure destinations outside Japan. Therefore, if you are thinking of going to places like Cebu, New Caledonia, Bora Bora, Fiji, and Bali, then you will have to head to Narita International Airport.

    Narita’s leisure routes are so important that Garuda Indonesia is currently flying their only flight offering first class from Bali to Tokyo-Narita, and ANA chose to deploy their three A380 with their newest first class product exclusively for their Tokyo-Narita-Honolulu routes.

    For Those Staying In/Living In Western Tokyo: Haneda / For Those Staying In/Living in Eastern Tokyo: Narita

    Tokyo is an absolutely massive city that sprawls as far as the eye can see. The metropolitan area includes cities in other prefectures like Kanagawa (where Yokohama is located), Chiba, and Saitama. As a result, people residing in the Tokyo metropolitan area will favor an airport over the other depending on where they live.

    Those living in the west will go for Haneda due to its location in Ota. The airport is so convenient that people living as far as Shizuoka Prefecture will use Haneda when going overseas.

    However, people living in the east part of the city will find Narita more convenient.

    Those living in or staying in Tokyo should check which major train station is closer to them. If Ueno Station is close to you, then Narita is a great option because the Skyliner departs from Ueno. The Skyliner is, after the many shinkansen, the fastest train in Japan, and as such one can reach Narita International Airport in just 41 minutes.

    The Skyliner is an incredibly comfortable train. Passengers can store their luggage, charge their phones, use the train’s bathrooms, and nap until they reach their destination.

    The Narita Express (N’EX) is also a great option to go to Narita Airport, and the biggest advantage of this train is that it departs from many other major train stations, including Tokyo Station, Shinjuku Station, Ikebukuro Station, and Yokohama Station. However, while the Narita Express is a very comfortable train, it’s slower than the Skyliner.

    Haneda, on the other hand, is served by the Tokyo Monorail and the Keikyu Line. The Keikyu Line is by far more convenient since it departs from Shinagawa Station, which is one can use to transfer to many other trains including the Yamanote Line. Additionally, some trains of the Keikyu Line continue onto the Toei Asakusa Line. If the train is listed as an Airport Limited Express, then the journey between Shinagawa Station and Haneda will only be 11 minutes.

    What’s more, since Haneda is closer to the city center, those taking Airport Limousines or taxis will find the ride to be faster and less stressful.

    For Those Flying First Class: Haneda

    If you are flying first class, then Haneda is hands down the better airport. Since Haneda has become Tokyo’s airport for premium routes, this is where one can find the better first class services.

    For example ANA have been debuting their new business class and first class seats in flights leaving from Haneda. The first of these routes was the one to London Heathrow, the next one to New York JFK, and the third one to Frankfurt.

    JAL’s first class lounge in Haneda is absolutely stunning, and far more beautiful than the one they have in Narita.

    While Air France offer flights to both Narita and Haneda, only one of their flights to Haneda offers their La Premiere seats.

    What’s more, Emirates feature first class on both their Airbus A380s and Boeing 777-300ERs. However, their newest first class product, which is considered to be above and beyond their older one, is only available on a selected 777-300ERs, and one of them is the one that departs from Haneda.

    For Those Who Have Lots of Bags: Narita

    As stated before, Narita is served by the Skyliner and N’EX while Haneda is served by the Tokyo Monorail and the Keikyu Line. The biggest difference here is that the Skyliner and the Narita Express offer reserved seating, meaning that you can board and get off the train easily.

    That’s not always the case when going to Haneda. Taking the Keikyu Line or the Tokyo Monorail usually means that one will be inside a very crowded train. When that happens, one will also have to squeeze through people just to get off at their station.

    If you add luggage to the equation, then going to Haneda can become very troublesome. However, a very good option to avoid this problem when flying to/from Haneda is to have your luggage delivered to your hotel/home or to the airport. Just make sure you book the service in advance.

    For Those Flying Within Japan: Haneda

    Since Haneda served as Tokyo’s domestic airport from 1978 to 2010, Haneda has no rivals when it comes to its domestic network. Despite expanding international services, most of Haneda’s nearly 90 million passengers are flying domestically.

    Besides that, JAL’s and ANA’s terminals are more like shopping malls that offer great restaurants and stores, which is one of the reasons people tend to actually like spending time inside the terminals (a trend that’s uncommon when it comes to airports).

    To make things even better, JAL and ANA offer a spectacular domestic service whether one is flying ANA’s Premium Class, JAL’s First Class, JAL’s J Class, or ANA and JAL’s economy classes. Additionally, ANA’s Premium Class, and JAL’s First Class offer services that are far superior to the ones American carriers offer in domestic first class, and most European airlines on their intra-Europe business class flights.

    Conclusion

    There you have it! While recent talk has made it seem as if Haneda was, beyond any doubt, the most convenient airport, it really depends on many different factors.

    In the end, not everyone has the luxury of getting to choose between Narita and Haneda since there are cities where airlines only fly to one of these airports. For example: if you live or are traveling anywhere in Mexico, chances are you will fly from or to Nartia. ANA and Aeromexico are the only airlines that fly from Mexico City to Tokyo-Narita, and choosing to fly to Haneda would mean connecting in the U.S. or Canada.

    However, if you have the opportunity to choose either Haneda or Narita, make sure which airport better suits your needs.

    *Featured Image by haneda.airport_international (羽田空港国際線旅客ターミナル 公式アカウント) on Instagram
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