60 000 slots for international flights at Haneda airport from October, 2010

Japan’s new government continues to push to turn Haneda airport into a twenty-four-hour international airport. Mr. Seiji Maehara, Transport Minister, advised that at least half of the increase in new slots at Haneda airport will be allocated to international flights.

A fourth runway is scheduled to open in October 2010, increasing the airports daytime landing and take-off slots from 300 000 to 410 000.

The plans indicate that flights to destinations in Europe and North America will be considered, which under existing plans where due to start next autumn utilising night-time and early morning arrivals and departures only.

For the last thirty years, Japan has diluted its geographical advantage as an Asian gateway by splitting domestic and international flights across two major airports, Haneda and Narita. This has allowed competitors to establish themselves and take business away from Japan. These exciting developments signal an end to this period and a dawn of Japan taking back traffic which has until now gone to competitors.

Of course, this raises challenges not least for Narita airport and the major international airlines. Haneda is the natural choice given its proximity to the city of Tokyo and all other factors being equal. It will be important for Narita to respond to the opportunity, perhaps attracting low-cost carriers and establishing a credible domestic network.

Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways have for decades run split operations across Haneda and Narita airports. The largest foreign airlines with significant bases at Narita airport will have to consider how best to respond to take advantage of the opportunities at Haneda, while not incurring significant fixed and variable cost increases.

What other opportunities do you see this planned change presenting Japan?