Travelers have always preferred Tokyo’s Haneda Airport over Narita, but artificial restrictions that prevented most international flights from operating at Haneda forced airlines to fly to Narita for all flights to/from North America for years. Those restrictions have slowly been eroded, and the next big tranche of new international slots at Haneda goes into effect next summer. The US airlines released their plans previously, but the big question was around what the Japanese carriers would do. Now we know, and there is a lot of shifting to Haneda. In fact, for the first time since Narita opened, Haneda will have more flights to North America.
I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of why Haneda is the preferred airport, but that isn’t going to stop me. This is why:
There is no other reason except for the whole “convenience” argument.
When Haneda first opened up to US flights in 2009, a trickle of flights moved over. The original rules for US flights required operations only at night, and that hurt commercial viability. Once that changed, the desire to move into Haneda grew for every airline. Delta has now successfully been able to announce a complete pull-out of Narita. American and United remain in reduced form in order to feed their respective partners who have hubs there.
You can see the steady creep of flights at Haneda as slots have opened up. The big jump comes before next summer. But what I think is most interesting is breaking out the type of flights at each airport.
The expectation once Haneda opened up was that Narita would remain a low-cost, leisure airport. It is certainly trending that way. You can see that the number of flights to the beach destinations in Hawai’i and Guam have remained relatively steady. It’s the business flights to the rest of North America that have disappeared the fastest.
ANA is planning to move most of what it operates to Haneda. It will move its Houston, San Jose, Seattle, and Washington/Dulles flights. It will also move one of its LA flights over, and it will start a new flight from San Francisco. That leaves Narita with 1 daily ANA flight each to Chicago/O’Hare, LA, New York/JFK, and San Francisco. Honolulu will keep its two daily A380 flights as well.
Meanwhile, Japan Airlines will keep more at Narita, but it is still cutting. It will move its Chicago/O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, and New York/JFK flights to Haneda. It will add a new flight from LA to Haneda and downgauge the 777-300ER going from there to Narita into a 787-9. It will also add a new Honolulu flight to Haneda. That leaves Narita with 1 flight each to Boston, LA, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, and Vancouver. On the leisure side, JAL will keep flying 2 flights to Guam, 2 to Honolulu, and 1 to Kona. It will also re-start Chicago/O’Hare in 2021, or at least that’s the plan now.
For these airlines, I imagine it’s a balance of wanting to keep some semblance of a hub alive at Narita barring the ability to actually move everything to Haneda. There just aren’t enough slots to do what’s ideal.
Outside of these two (and ANA’s partner United), the rest of Narita is pretty sparse when it comes to North America flying.
- Aeromexico – 1 daily to Mexico City
- Air Canada – 1 daily each to Calgary, Montreal, and Vancouver
- American – 1 daily to Dallas/Fort Worth
- Hawaiian – 1 daily to Honolulu
- Jeju Air – 1 daily to Guam
- Korean Air – 1 daily to Honolulu
- Singapore Air – 1 daily to Los Angeles
- T’way Air – 1 daily to Guam
- United – 1 daily each to Denver, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, and San Francisco plus 3 daily to Guam
It’s amazing to see the amount of lift going into Guam, including flights on three South Korean airlines. (By the way, T’way Air uses the IATA code TW; I had to do a double-take.)
I don’t know the status of the agreements with Canada and Mexico and when (if) those flights can move, so excluding those and the beach markets, there are a scant 7 daily flights left. Six of those are on American and United, both partners of ANA and Japan Airlines so they have hub feed options. The only other one that remains? Singapore Airlines to LA. Considering Singapore’s addition of nonstops to Singapore from Los Angeles, I have to wonder how much longer this flight will survive.
It looks like predictions about Narita’s future appear to be coming true. What determines its actual path is simply how much more capacity Haneda is allowed to absorb. Until a full transfer is allowed, Narita will continue to limp along with the leftovers.