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Transportation

Tokyo's Haneda cements hub status with 70% flight increase

Australia, India and Turkey among the new routes, official list shows

Haneda Airport's expansion will add service to Russia, India, Australia and other destinations for the first time. (Photo by Tsuneyuki Kenmochi)

TOKYO -- International flights at Japan's Haneda Airport increase roughly 70% next March under an official breakdown announced Monday, solidifying the hub's position as an international gateway to Tokyo.

Flights to and from the U.S. make up the largest share of the expansion by far, at a total of 24, according to a release from the Transport Ministry. This is followed by eight for China, four for Russia, and four for Australia.

Two flights each have been set aside for India, Italy, Turkey, and Finland as well, with another two shared between Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

Other than the U.S. and China, the additions will be Haneda's first direct flights to the countries on the list.

The expansion, which comes ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games next year, will enable the Tokyo area to take in a broader range of business travelers and tourists with two complementary hubs. The capital's other main gateway, Narita International Airport, plans to offer more budget airlines.

A total of 50 new daytime flights will be added per day at Haneda, thanks to flight paths opened up above central Tokyo after the U.S. freed up airspace controlled by America's Yokota Air Base. An additional two flights are allocated to India during overnight hours.

Half of the new flights will be allocated to Japanese carriers, with 13.5 going to ANA Holdings unit All Nippon Airways and the rest to Japan Airlines.

The ministry estimates that the new flights will accommodate 7 million more passengers for international flights to Haneda a year. This would raise the total to 25 million, fast approaching Narita.

This will be the last expansion at Haneda for the foreseeable future. With the area's demand for travel on the rise, there are plans to add new flights at Narita next year. Preparations are also underway to build a third runway at Narita in the late 2020s.

U.S.-based Delta Air Lines is moving its Japan hub from Narita to Haneda to coincide with the latter's expansion. Haneda is closer to central Tokyo than Narita, which is located in neighboring Chiba Prefecture.

But flights tend to be cheaper at Narita, bringing more budget carriers the airport. Malaysia's AirAsia will begin a route connecting Narita to Kuala Lumpur in November, while new JAL unit Zipair Tokyo aims to begin flights to Bangkok in 2020 and to North America in fiscal 2021.

Haneda and Narita are poised to supplement each other, and their biggest rivals lie elsewhere in Asia. The two airports combined now serve about 50 million passengers a year, compared with 72 million at Hong Kong International Airport and 66 million at South Korea's Incheon International Airport.

The new flights at Haneda will bring the two Tokyo airports closer to their international competition. But they still lag far behind in the number of cities they connect to, at just over 100, compared with about 150 at other Asian hubs and more than 300 at London.

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