One Year after Haneda Airport Internationalizes: Travelers Want More Late-Night & Early Morning Ground Transit Services

Although Haneda Airport passed the one-year mark in October since its full internationalization and commencement of 24-hour operations, many travelers are expressing a desire for expanded travel services in the late-night and early morning hours.

In addition to long-haul flights to San Francisco and Paris by Japan Airlines Co., Ltd. (JAL) and to Honolulu, Los Angeles and elsewhere by All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd. (ANA), there are also flights to Southeast Asia provided by airlines with departures after midnight from the new international terminal. The "last flight" is a Malaysian Airlines (MAS) flight to Kota Kinabalu that departs at 1:35 a.m. (with service on limited days of the week under the October 2011 schedule). The "first flight" is an Asiana Airlines, Inc. (AAR) 4:50 a.m. departure for Seoul (also with limited service). Airlines begin operating medium- and long-haul flights after 6:00 a.m. Most arriving flights come around 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., but there are also regular commercial flights between 3:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

However, the Keikyu railway and the Tokyo Monorail have terminuses at the airport, but they stop service around midnight and do not restart until after 5:00 a.m. Highway buses follow similar schedules. Air travelers arriving late at night or departing in the early morning can drive, take a taxi or stay in a hotel at or near the airport with a shuttle bus service to the terminal, but the fact is that there is more than a few people who sleep in the terminal lobby. An online survey of 315 people conducted by the Haneda Keizai Shimbun in the first half of the year showed that in response to the question of what respondents do when the first train or bus of the day does not arrive in time for an early-morning departure from Haneda, 24% replied that they "arrive at the airport the night before and sleep in the terminal." During the summer travel season, a man in his 30s waiting to be processed for a 6:00 a.m. departure said, "There's nothing I can do but stay in the lobby until morning if I'm changing planes or there's a delay, but this is a tough way to travel on a regular basis." A person who works in the aviation industry said, "If we could get better ground access, then there would be more airlines wanting to fly here."

Transportation companies are already starting service earlier and finishing later to accommodate, but at present there are plans to secure equipment or adjust transfer schedules to provide 24-hour ground transit service. The terminal plans to add parking spots and build new overnight accommodations in 2014, but it appears there will be more demand for steps to integrate transportation in order to further take advantage of the benefits of having a 24-hour airport.