Tokyo’s first dedicated business-jet terminal opens Saturday as Japan tries to lure millionaire tourists from China and investment from multinationals adding Asian offices.
The facility at Narita Airport, the nation’s biggest international gateway, will have dedicated customs and immigration counters, allowing travelers to avoid the lines. The center will cost ¥250,000 ($3,040) per plane, said Hiroaki Suda, a spokesman for state-owned Narita International Airport Corp. There will be 18 parking spaces.
“We want to prepare ourselves so business leaders from overseas can come to Japan, adding to the country’s growth,” said Kunihiko Muroi, a parliamentary secretary at the transport ministry. “We also want Japan’s young small and medium-size business owners to be flying around the world.”
Japan has also expanded Tokyo’s two airports to boost international flights, begun building new roads to ease congestion and drawn up plans to merge stock exchanges to help Tokyo compete with Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. The terminal may also boost the use of business jets in Japan, where the fleet totaled 55 at the end of 2010, compared with 12,074 in the U.S., according to the Japan Business Aviation Association.
“We have high hopes for the new terminal,” said Junichi Nagano, president of Tokyo-based business-jet operator Japan Jet Charter Co. “It’s a big breakthrough for Japan’s gateway.”
The company will add an additional plane by the end of the year, as demand for business jets from overseas, including China, grows, he said. That would raise the carrier’s fleet to four.
The new center is located about 100 meters from the Terminal Two tarmac. It’s opening alongside wider expansion work at the airport that has boosted the total annual capacity to 250,000 takeoffs and landings a year from 235,000. That will rise to 270,000 by the end of next March, Kosaburo Morinaka, Narita Airport’s president, said Thursday.
“Access to airports and landing slots in Tokyo has always been a problem,” said Ernie Edwards, president of plane-maker Embraer SA’s executive-jet division. By contrast, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Beijing all already have dedicated business-jet centers.
The facility at Narita, about 70 km from downtown Tokyo, will be only the fourth dedicated business-jet terminal in Japan, following two in the Nagoya area and one in Kobe, according to the Japan Business Aviation Association.
“This was a problem in Japan, where general aviation wasn’t a priority,” Francois Chazelle, Airbus SAS’s vice president for corporate jets, said at a Shanghai business-jet show this week. The new Narita facility “is a big step.”
Tokyo’s airports had 2,573 business jet takeoffs and landings in 2011, according to figures from the transport ministry. That was little changed from a year earlier, even following the March 2011 quake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.
There were about 5,000 business-jet movements at Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka airports last year. A total of 2,387 flights nationwide involved flights to or from the U.S. South Korea was the second-most popular destination, while China ranked third.
Aircraft manufacturers expect business-jet use in China to surge, as rising wealth spurs purchases. Cessna Aircraft Co. and Embraer both have plans to build aircraft in the country because of anticipated local demand. The country’s fleet may increase to 2,470 planes by 2030 from 150 in 2010, according to Montreal-based Bombardier Inc.
While the new Narita facility will ease arrivals for business-jet travelers, it will still take at least 30 minutes to reach central Tokyo, even by helicopter. For that reason, operators are also pushing for a dedicated terminal at Haneda airport, near the heart of the capital.
“We should have business-jet facilities at Haneda, not just Narita,” said Kazunobu Sato, vice chairman of the Japan Business Aviation Association. “We’ll keep pushing for more takeoff and landing slots.”