Tokyo’s Haneda airport is accelerating its push to become an international hub and is expected to become the world’s third-busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic this business year.
Haneda officials forecast that 73.4 million passengers will use the airport in the year ending next March — 62 million for domestic flights and 11.4 million for international flights — up from 56.42 million and 7.26 million, respectively, in business 2011.
In 2013, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta was the busiest airport in the world as it was used by 94.43 million passengers. The U.S. airport was followed by Beijing Capital International Airport with 83.71 million passengers and London Heathrow Airport with 72.36 million.
Haneda, officially named Tokyo International Airport, is likely to eclipse Heathrow in the near future, officials say.
Situated in Ota Ward, Haneda is one of the two primary airports serving the greater Tokyo area, together with Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture. Haneda is about 14 km from the center of the capital, compared with some 60 km for Narita.
“Haneda is growing to become a hub airport against the backdrop of the government’s policy of promoting tourism and the selection of Tokyo to host the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020,” said Isao Takashiro, president of Japan Airport Terminal Co., which runs the first and second domestic terminals.
Haneda first opened in 1931 and became primarily used for domestic flights when international flights shifted to Narita after it opened in 1978, although chartered international flights between Japan and certain countries, such as China and South Korea, continued to use Haneda.
Regular international flights resumed at Haneda in October 2010 after a fourth runway and a new international terminal were completed.
Since the terminal was expanded in March this year to provide more check-in counters and boarding gates, the number of landing and take-off slots allocated to Haneda has grown by 30,000 a year to 90,000.
The expanded international terminal now also includes a 17-room hotel for transit passengers with rooms from ¥11,000 per night.
In December, moreover, runway C will be extended by 360 meters to handle big aircraft that can fly to the United States and Europe without refueling, reinforcing its capacity as an international airport.
While Haneda and downtown Tokyo are linked by the Tokyo Monorail and Keikyu train lines, East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) announced a plan earlier this year to build yet another train line between Tokyo Station and Haneda.
The new line will make it possible for people in the northern part of Kanto to go directly to Haneda via the Takasaki, Joban and other train lines.
The robust expansion of the airport, on the other hand, has raised concerns about increased noise in residential areas around it.
Private planes are required to fly at more than 6,000 feet over Tokyo to reduce noise pollution. Most commercial passenger planes, therefore, fly into Haneda by going over Chiba and Tokyo Bay.
Since the fourth runway came into use at Haneda, there have been growing complaints from Chiba residents about the noise created when planes cross over the city to land.
“As many as 40 planes fly over us per hour,” complained an official at the city office.
The problem has eased somewhat since the transport ministry raised the minimum altitude at the request of the city, prefecture and over 20 other municipalities.
A ministry panel is considering easing the restrictions over Tokyo, but that will just fuel more concern about noise.
The government will thus look into providing data about the cost of building sound barriers, and taking countermeasures, such as limiting flight hours and requiring the use of small and midsize aircraft, experts said.
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