Tokyo Haneda Airport: So Close Yet, ‘Not’ So Far
The beauty of Haneda Airport is that it is really close to downtown Tokyo–unlike Narita, which is more than 50 miles east of the sprawling Japanese capital. Until 2010, Haneda was just a domestic airport handling volumes of regional traffic plus domestic arrivals and departures. But 2010 saw the opening of a new international terminal as well as a much needed fourth runway and I recently experienced the joy of using close-in Haneda as opposed to distant and overcrowded Narita.
Our flight landed at Haneda at approximately 9:30 a.m. on the most easterly runway (34R) and experienced a fairly long – maybe 15 minutes – taxi over to the International Terminal located on the west side of the airfield.
Disembarking from the airplane, it was onto a jetway, and then into the terminal building and down a long hall way to Japan’s Immigration facilities; that stroll was pretty brisk as we were eager to get out of the airport after a 12 hour flight.
Luckily at that time of the morning arriving at the immigration area, there were plenty of manned kiosks with lively officials ready to stamp us into Japan. That process, even with several people in front of us in the queue, took no more than three minutes max.
Then walking straight ahead into the baggage hall, there was an immediate chiming sound and the baggage carousel began to churn. And within minutes, our bags were there, ready for the picking. Because we had been on a connecting flight, the connecting bags emerged first – that was a bit of pure luck.
Baggage carts at Haneda are free, unlike the $5 ripoff at most USA airport terminals (LAX being an exception in the arrivals area of the Tom Bradley International Terminal). The carts also are large unlike some of the familiar SmartCarte models, and can take three large suitcases. We had three plus a few hand carries so two carts filled the bill.
Outside the baggage hall, there were well-staffed information desks and kiosks to obtain maps and advice as well as purchase transport into Tokyo. And then, pick-up areas for public transportation were located immediately outside the baggage hall.
Now on to town and our hotel in downtown Tokyo. There are several modes of public transport available to downtown Tokyo – taxi, an airport limousine bus and a monorail. Since we were schlepping all those bags, and were headed to the Park Hyatt Hotel located on the west side of downtown Tokyo, we chose the airport limousine bus to Shinjuku Station, the largest commuter hub in Tokyo, and closest to our hotel.
Haneda, adjacent to Tokyo Bay and south of downtown, is only nine miles from Shinjuku Station. The fare is 1,200 yen each (about $12.65) and it was a non-stop ride which took about 30 minutes. Since we were driving well after the commuting hour, it was fast and comfortable.
Upon arrival at Shinjuku Station, we hopped into a taxi for the five minute ride to the Park Hyatt; the taxi fare was 710 yen ($7.48). All counted, our trip for two from Haneda to the hotel was just under $33, a sensible price from airport to hotel in just under one hour.
Departing to Haneda from the hotel several days later for an early flight back to the USA was just as effortless, with the exception that it simply cost more and it can be at an ungodly hour of the morning. Because of slot times at Haneda, departures to long-haul international destinations are timed very late at night or during the very early morning hours.
Coupled with the fact that most public transportation shuts down during the wee small hours of the morning, private car or taxi is the only way to Haneda. But if you can get by the outlandish 15,000 yen taxi fare ($157.83), the ride is less than 25 minutes.
On arrival at the departures level of Haneda’s International terminal, there are plenty of baggage carts curbside – again, no charge. Once inside the terminal, well-lit signage directs one to the appropriate check-in area. By the way, all airport signs are posted in English as well as Japanese.
Airlines have been allocated plenty of available check-in desks for each class of service and there are an abundance of check-in staff to assist with baggage, passport and seating formalities. Check-in is a cinch.
From the check-in area, it’s an easy two minute walk to security – the lines were quick – and one does not have to remove shoes, only laptops. From security, one walks straight ahead to immigration, and again, there are numerous manned kiosks and you’re away in seconds.
Again the early timing of the departures may work against you if you still have yen to burn as the duty free shops and restaurants may not be open. On our experience, the very large duty free shop opened just after 5 a.m. and there was an immediate flood of customers pouring in to buy those last minute goodies; Japanese cookies, pastries and candies are the best deals. Unique to Japan, you will be able to find KitKats in a variety of flavors such as green tea, blueberry cheesecake, strawberry cheesecake and others.
In the morning hours, the gate areas have plenty of seats and by the time you get somewhat settled, trying not to doze off and miss your boarding announcements, flights are ready to go. Airline lounges also are located airside making the walk to the gate less strainful.
On our flight, boarding by cabin and by row was called about 45 minutes prior to departure enabling the flight to push back right on schedule.
For sheer ease and convenience to downtown Tokyo, flying in and out of Haneda beats the out-of-the-way Narita. However to save money on airport transfers, particularly on outbound flights during reasonable daylight hours for eastbound flights across the Pacific, Narita would be the airport of choice. Narita also offers more flights to and from a variety of USA gateways.
Daily flights between JFK, New York, and Haneda are operated by American Airlines with Delta Airlines operating daily between Los Angeles and Haneda, and starting June 1, 2013, Seattle/Tacoma and Haneda. Also Hawaiian Airlines flies daily between Honolulu and Haneda.
Haneda also hosts other well known international airlines such as British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Singapore and, naturally, the two global Japanese carriers, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways.
NOTE: Narita, the larger airport of Tokyo which handles most all international carriers, offers bus limousine service to and from downtown Tokyo. A rail connection also is available. The bus ride, to or from downtown, may take anywhere from one hour 15 minutes to over two hours, depending on traffic and time of day. One-way limousine bus service between Narita and downtown Tokyo is 3,000 yen ($31.61).