Welcome to Japan: Haneda Airport

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Haneda Airport International Terminal Interior. Photo by Suikotei (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Welcome to the second in a series of blog posts called Welcome to Japan. In the first project since updating the layout of my blog, I am introducing a series that will explain the available transit options after arriving at some of Japan’s major airports.

In my first post I talked about Narita Airport. I will now talk about Narita’s “neighbor” Haneda Airport, the closest major airport to Tokyo.

Haneda Airport began operations well before World War II. It was not until the 1950’s that Haneda really began to expand with growing services around the globe. As it became a strong airport for both domestic and international flights, the government decided that a new airport was needed to address capacity requirements. In 1978 almost all international traffic shifted to Narita Airport. Haneda became a mainly domestic airport for the next several decades… a bit troublesome for anyone flying into the country at Narita wishing to transfer to a domestic flight at Haneda.

In 2010, a state-of-the-art International Terminal opened, heralding the return of mainline international flights. Slots were initially limited to inconvenient nighttime arrivals and departures as domestic flights still took up most of the daily schedule. This would slowly change, with more slots being opened thanks to new runways and taxiways and redevelopment of airspace routes.

Today, Haneda Airport stands as a proud symbol of Tokyo and Japan, whether you are arriving in the country or just transiting through.

Haneda Airport has three terminals. In addition to the International Terminal, Haneda has two Domestic terminals, each serving one of the two major Japanese airline carriers.

Terminal 1: Japan Airlines (JAL) domestic flights, Skymark Airlines
Terminal 2: All Nippon (ANA) domestic flights, Solaseed, Air Do
International Terminal: All international flights including JAL and ANA
*Domestic airline StarFlyer operates from both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

If you need to transfer between terminals, you have a few options.

If you are moving between the two domestic terminals, you can take a shuttle bus outside security, departing every 4 minutes. Alternatively, you can go downstairs to take a moving walkway, which is approximately 400 meters (1/4 mile) in length from one terminal to the other.

Moving between one of the domestic terminals and the international terminal is another story as they are much further apart. There are several options available:

  • You can use the Keikyu Railway or the Tokyo Monorail to travel between the terminals. Keikyu Railway has one station serving both domestic terminals, and one station at the international terminal. Tokyo Monorail has two stations serving each domestic terminal, and one station at the international terminal. The trip is only a few minutes and costs 200 yen. However, if you are transferring between an International and Domestic flight (and vice-versa) you can ride either of these trains for free by presenting your passport and onward boarding pass.
  • You can take the free shuttle bus outside of security that runs to/from the International terminals. Buses run every 4 minutes and make the trip in 7-12 minutes.
  • If you are arriving on an International flight and are changing to a Domestic flight, you may be offered an option by your airline to use the Domestic Transfer Counter at the International Terminal. This means that after you collect your luggage from your International flight and clear immigration/customs, you proceed to the Domestic Transfer Counter to check your bags and receive a boarding pass for your domestic flight. You then clear security immediately and take a bus that will drive you to the secure area of Terminal 1 or 2. This allows you to effectively “bypass” check-in and security queues in the domestic terminals, not to mention you don’t have to lug all of your belongings along the way.

Let’s talk more about the Keikyu Railway and Tokyo Monorail, the two rail operators with services to and from Haneda Airport.

Tokyo Monorail train
Tokyo Monorail Series 10000 train. Photo by nyohoho (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Tokyo Monorail

The Tokyo Monorail is an engineering feat, having been completed in time for the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics to easily connect global visitors to the heart of Tokyo along the coast of Tokyo Bay. It has undergone a few changes since the early 2000’s, the most important of which was a re-build and re-route to serve the new International Terminal. Trains leave every few minutes and head towards Hamamatsucho station, which interchanges with the JR Yamanote Line that loops around central Tokyo.

The fastest trains, the Haneda Express, run from the International Terminal station to Hamamatsucho in as little as 13 minutes nonstop. Stopping patterns of trains will vary depending on the time of day; for example you’ll find that all of the services during weekday rush hours are local trains.

A one-way ticket to Hamamatsucho from any of the Airport stations will cost 490 yen, easily payable with an IC card like Suica or Pasmo.

An advantage of the Tokyo Monorail is its partnership with Japan Railways… or to be technical, its majority ownership (70% of the Tokyo Monorail stock is owned by East Japan Railway). As a result, trips on the Tokyo Monorail are free of charge for holders of any sort of national Japan Rail Pass or regional JR East Pass that includes the greater Tokyo area. What’s more, there’s even a JR East Service Center open seven days a week from 6:45-18:30 that can answer your travel questions or process rail pass exchanges.

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Keikyu Railway Airport Express service. Photo by Inatewi (CC BY-SA 4.0)

 Keikyu Railway

The Keikyu is one of the most important private railways in Japan. Its primary purpose is to serve commuter passengers from Tokyo to Yokohama, Yokosuka and the Miura peninsula. One of their branch lines is an important one that runs from the city of Kamata directly towards Haneda Airport. Kamata is an important station to bring up because it may or may not affect your trip on Keikyu, depending on which train you use.

The fastest service on the Keikyu out of Haneda Airport is the Airport Rapid Express, or Airport Kaitoku, which operates nonstop between the Haneda Airport stations and Shinagawa station, which is on the JR Yamanote Line loop. These make the nonstop run in as little as 11 minutes at a cost of 410 yen; some others make one or more stops, including at Kamata, along the way. From Shinagawa, trains run north into the Toei Asakusa Subway Line, which provides easy one-seat train rides to Shimbashi, Nihombashi, Asakusa and Oshiage – a few go directly to Narita Airport as well.

The Airport Express is a common service that not only serves Shinagawa, but also serves Kawasaki and Yokohama. If you board an Airport Express to Yokohama, your train will travel to Kamata station and then reverse direction. These one-seat trips to Yokohama take around 23 minutes and cost 450 yen. You also have the option of changing at Kamata to the next fast train towards Shinagawa or Yokohama depending on your destination.

Transfers to the Shinkansen

Are you planning to take the Shinkansen right away when you land? Unlike Narita, which offers a direct Japan Railway connection to the bullet trains (the Narita Express), Haneda is a little different.

You can easily take the Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatsucho, and then take the Yamanote or Keihin Tohoku lines to either Tokyo or Shinagawa stations. If you are heading to northern Japan, go to Tokyo station. If you are heading towards Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and points further west, go to Shinagawa station. All of these methods are free when you use any sort of national or JR East Rail Pass. Bear in mind that the Keikyu Railway offers a one-seat ride to Shinagawa, so even if you have a JR pass it may be worth paying the 410 yen to ride the Keikyu just for the convenience.

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Many highway buses from Haneda go to the Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal in Tokyo. Photo by nesnad (CC BY-SA 4.0)

 Buses

Just like Narita Airport, Haneda has a large number of highway buses that will take you out of the airport and into most parts of Tokyo. While they can get held up depending on road conditions, they also provide direct access to major hotels and train stations.

The Airport Limousine Bus does offer a service from Haneda Airport to Tokyo City Air Terminal, or T-CAT, but at an irregular frequency compared to the several buses per hour that ply to and from Narita. Buses take 35-60 minutes depending on the route and stops, but trips cost only 820 yen. There are a few buses per day that operate nonstop between T-CAT and the International Terminal only, while others serve some or all of the airport terminals.

On the other hand, the real route where the Airport Limousine shines in this instance is the run from Haneda Airport to Shinjuku and adjacent hotels. This is because Shinjuku is not as easily accessible by train from Haneda. You’ll find several buses per hour departing from all of Haneda’s terminals, with most stopping outside of Shinjuku Station, some continuing to Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal (which has become a major hub for highway buses heading out to other distant cities), and a few heading to some of the top hotels in the area. A trip from Haneda to Shinjuku costs 1,230 yen and takes about an hour.

The Airport Limousine web site has a complete list of stops made on its vast network, from train stations to hotels. It also offers direct connections to Narita. Each passenger is allowed to check up to two pieces of luggage in the hold of the bus.

Note that late night departures of the limousine bus (generally any bus leaving after midnight) will incur a night surcharge on top of the normal fare.

Taxis

Expensive Tokyo taxis are another option. Once again, if you are travelling in a group and everyone is willing to pay a share of the taxi fare, it can be a good point-to-point option.

Flat-fare taxis are available from the flat-fare taxi ranks to bring you to most areas of Tokyo. Some examples of flat fare prices include 5,900 yen to Chiyoda ward (home of Tokyo Station) and 7,100 yen to Shinjuku. It’s important to note that flat fare services are not offered to the immediate areas and wards near Haneda Airport. If you go to these short-range destinations then you will pay by the meter.

If you are considering a taxi, my recommendation is to use public transit (in this case, train, monorail or bus) to a major station near where you want to go, and then take a taxi to your final destination.

International Terminal

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A double room inside the Royal Park Hotel The Haneda in the International Terminal. Some of these hotel rooms are inside the transit area, making it a convenient resting place for international flight connections. Photo by Flickr user brownpau (CC BY 2.0)
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Step back in time when visiting the shops in the International Terminal. Photo by edomuranotokuzou (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Whether you are flying in or out of Haneda, transiting, or just paying a visit, the new International Terminal has a lot of wonderful features to please the curious traveler.
You’ll find stores and restaurants reminiscent of the old Edo era on the upper floors of the terminal, along with an observation deck and even a Muslim prayer room. If you forget any items, toiletries or bags, chances are one of the pre-security stores will fix you up.

The International Terminal also has a unique hotel, Royal Park Hotel The Haneda, located within the International Building. Rooms can be pricey at times, but the location can’t be beat. The hotel actually has two sections: In addition to the main hotel, there is also a Transit Hotel located within the secure part of the airport designed for outbound and transiting International passengers. If you have a long layover and don’t feel like venturing out of the airport, then sleep in your very own bed at this transit hotel complete with a shower. The hotel also offers refresh rooms with a sofa, TV and shower that cost 2,000 yen for an hour and 1,000 yen for every 30 minutes thereafter.

Conclusion

While Narita remains the major International airport of both Tokyo and Japan as a whole, Haneda is making a strong comeback with increasing flights and modern amenities for a pleasant trip. Out of the four major International airports in Japan, Haneda is the only one I haven’t visited (as far as the new International building is concerned). Please enjoy all that Haneda has to offer, whether it be for travel, transit or sightseeing.

All information and links were accurate as of December 2018, and subject to the disclaimer. Photos used in the article are either public domain or courtesy of creative commons licenses.

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Haneda Airport to be opened to daytime arrivals for U.S. airlines

This week, the governments of Japan and the United States reached an agreement with regards to U.S.-based airlines  flying into Haneda, the closest airport to Tokyo.

A few years back, U.S. airlines were permitted four daily round-trips from U.S. cities to Haneda, but these flights were restricted to evening hours, when the airport is not busy… and close to the times that public transportation options become limited. This could have proved to be a headache, as I suggested back in 2011, though the opening of a hotel within Haneda’s International terminal in 2014 eased the travel worries somewhat.

Under the new agreement, however, U.S. airlines will be permitted to land at Haneda during regular daytime hours. The slots will change from four round-trips during the night hours to five round-trips during the day, and one round-trip during the evening. The changes will be implemented as early as this coming autumn.

This is tremendous news for travelers between the United States and Japan, as you can now enjoy all of the amenities that Haneda has to offer, while being able to travel into Tokyo quickly and cheaply by train or monorail.

Two of the three major U.S. airlines – American and United – support this agreement. Delta Air Lines, on the other hand, opposes it. Delta feels that the slot change at Haneda to permit more U.S. arrivals during the daytime could compromise its hub operations at Narita Airport and put its U.S.-Japan flights into jeopardy, since travelers would prefer to land at Haneda.

One other aspect that tilts against Delta is the fact that American and United have partners in Japan: American partners with Japan Airlines in the Oneworld alliance, and United partners with All Nippon in the Star Alliance. With Haneda Airport offering plenty of domestic flights from its two domestic terminals, there is an opportunity for US travelers to easily connect between international and domestic flights. In fact, Japan Airlines already offers easy International-to-Domestic connections from the International Terminal building – once you clear customs and immigration and drop off your baggage, you clear security in the International terminal and then board a bus to the secure area of the JAL domestic terminal.

In my opinion, this is a win for travelers who now have better ways to see Japan through the new daytime arrivals and departures at Haneda. What are your thoughts?

And the fares just keep on falling… under $700 r/t on Delta

Update 4/9/15: Looks like the deals are now gone, and at the current time the below flights can be had for just around $1,000 round-trip.

The amazingly cheap airfares that Delta has maintained on flights to Tokyo, Japan over the last few days are now… ridiculously cheaper. However, as the saying goes, “certain restrictions apply.”

Delta now has cheap airfares from select US cities… most of which have already been mentioned on this blog… connecting to their late-night flights to Haneda Airport. Depending on the arrival and timing, there are more limited travel options out of Haneda in the late night hours compared to an afternoon arrival at Narita, so keep this in mind… unless of course you’re willing to spend night #1 at the hotel inside the terminal 🙂

Delta’s fares connecting to Haneda are now under $700 round trip. Found this morning:

Philadelphia to Tokyo Haneda: $674 round trip.
Charlotte to Tokyo Haneda: $668 round trip.
Miami to Tokyo Haneda: $670 round trip.
Dallas to Tokyo Haneda: $665 round trip.
Phoenix to Tokyo Haneda: $665 round trip.

Yes, these fares to Japan were found from American Airlines hubs.

Flying on Delta, with the exception of Phoenix, you will have to take TWO flights to connect to the Haneda flight out of Seattle. The start of the return trip goes to the US on a Haneda flight to either Seattle or Los Angeles. The fare is good for all Monday-Thursday flights throughout the year, except for some summer dates.

I am wondering if these fare sales are going on because of the US Department of Transportation’s recent ruling concerning the slot, or authority, awarded to Delta for flights between Seattle and Tokyo Haneda. Delta only operated this flight on occasion over the last few months, and while I won’t get into more specifics, the US DOT is requiring that Delta maintain a daily service on this route or else their slot will be forfeited and handed over to… surprise! – American Airlines. Maybe this is a way for them to desperately fill seats on that Seattle to Haneda flight?

In any case, you are the winner. If you’re willing to do a few hops to reach Tokyo, this is a ridiculously low airfare, so go ahead and book while it’s hot!

Airfare Alert! Delta flights to Japan on sale for April and May

This offer appears to have ended (Updated 3/2)

Today Delta Air Lines launched a sale on its flights to Tokyo Haneda – the ones that land and take off during the late night/early morning hours. The fares for flights connecting to these are also discounted.

The Economy airfare on Delta from Los Angeles is $600 round-trip… that’s right, ROUND TRIP, for flights departing and returning on all dates in April and May, except Fridays and Saturdays. Flights from Seattle to Haneda are $680 round-trip for almost the same time frame.

Lowest airfares from connecting cities:

*San Francisco, $615 r/t

*Las Vegas, $615 r/t

*Denver, $782 r/t

*Dallas DFW, $797 r/t

*San Antonio, $841 r/t

*Houston, $913 r/t

*Minneapolis, $931 r/t

*Chicago, $841 r/t

*Orlando, $745 r/t

*Baltimore, $841 r/t

*New York, $745 r/t

*Boston, $942 r/t

Note that you may have to connect once OR TWICE in either direction for the trip. Also, as I’ve mentioned on the blog before, it’s HANEDA. You’ll need to do some research to figure out the best options to/from the airport late in the evening, and you will also want to double check your departure time going back to the US… If it’s a 12:10 AM flight on a Monday, then be sure to show up on Sunday night!

Airfare Alert – Chicago to Japan for $759 round-trip on United Airlines

Discovered today is a discounted airfare from Chicago O’Hare Airport to Tokyo for last minute travel in early March.
The dates for departure and return are extremely limited – either March 3 or March 5 for the departure, and March 7, 12, 14, 21, 24 or 28 for the return.
The flight out to Tokyo leaves Chicago at 1:10 PM. After a connection in San Francisco you arrive at Haneda Airport at 10:30 PM the next day.
The return trip, however, requires you to fly from Haneda Airport to Beijing, China, and after a 5 hour layover, return on United’s nonstop flight from Beijing to Chicago.
A search on the United Airlines website yielded a sample fare of $759 round-trip.
If you prefer to fly nonstop both ways from Chicago, the cheapest nonstop fare is currently $1,115 round-trip on ANA, United, JAL and American.

This fare was checked 2/18/15 10 AM Eastern, subject to change.

Last-minute fare from New York to Tokyo $922 round-trip

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A last minute fare exists on United Airlines for travel from New York to Tokyo, costing just $922 round-trip. It’s a great deal if you want to spend a weekend in Tokyo.

You must depart from Newark Airport on the morning of Wednesday, January 28 and connect in San Francisco, arriving in Haneda Airport at 10:35 PM on Thursday, January 29. You are then free in Tokyo on Friday, Saturday and Sunday before departing early Monday morning, February 2, from Haneda on an All Nippon flight to Hong Kong, connecting after a 6 hour layover to the nonstop United Airlines flight from Hong Kong to Newark Airport. Arrival time back in Newark is 1:50 PM on February 2. You can check up to two bags at no charge for your itinerary.

The information in this post is accurate as of Saturday, January 24, 2015 at 1 PM Eastern Time and is subject to change.

Double American Airlines Miles to/from Japan

Announced this week is a promotion for American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier members to earn double the normal number of miles on select routes to/from Japan and a few other cities in Asia that are operated by either American Airlines or Japan Airlines. If you are big on frequent flier miles, this is a promotion you may wish to consider.

The offer is valid on all First class, all Business class, and “select” Economy fares on NONSTOP American and Japan Airlines flights between Tokyo Haneda airport and San Francisco, and between Tokyo Narita and the following cities: Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN), New York (JFK), Boston (BOS), and Vancouver (YVR). Click here to read the full terms and conditions, and to register. You must book and complete all travel by March 21, 2015.

In addition, double miles are being offered on nonstop flights on Japan Airlines from Tokyo to the following Asian cities: Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Dailan, Jakarta, Hanoi, Singapore and Delhi. Click here to read the full terms and conditions, and to register. You must book and complete all travel by March 20, 2015. Blackout dates are: From Tokyo, February 23-March 1, and returning to Tokyo, February 13-18.

Read the terms and conditions carefully, because the most discounted fares are ineligible for the double miles promotion.

For example, if you wanted to fly from New York to Japan in February (from the 4th to the 11th), I sampled a fare of $1,328 round trip, connecting in Los Angeles on the way to Tokyo and connecting in Chicago on the way back. You’d think you’d earn the double miles on the Los Angeles-Tokyo and Tokyo-Chicago legs, right? But upon closer inspection, the prospective flights would be booked in O and Q classes, which are all ineligible for the double miles offer.

To see what would be eligible, we can go to Google ITA Matrix and search for the fares. Pull up the advance routing codes and enter for both legs of the trip:

AA,JL+ /f bc=s

This forces the matrix to search for any direct flight on AA (American) or JL (Japan Airlines) with the booking code of S, which is the least expensive fare bucket permitted for the double miles.

When we search now, we get a result of $1,704 round-trip, which is for the nonstop from New York to Tokyo on JAL, booked through American Airlines codeshare. Quite a hike from the original $1,328 fare quoted!

If we add an X to the routing codes to look for connecting flights, so that it looks like this:

AA,JL+ X /f bc=s

We then get a $1,696 round-trip fare, connecting in Los Angeles. For that, you might as well pony up $10 for the nonstop!

If the matrix does not come up with any results, you can change the S (in bc=s) to the next letter that is permitted, such as V, L, etc.

It turns out that you CAN book this round-trip on the American Airlines website, and the S fare will show up. In case it does not, however, you might have to give American Airlines a call and ask them to make a reservation that is eligible for the double miles bonus, and hold the reservation. Then you can go online to your AAdvantage account to complete the ticketing. I have read some people that have done this to save on the $25 American Airlines telephone charge, but I’ve never tried this on my own.

In effect, you will be paying extra to secure the double miles. How many miles would you get?

Great Circle Distance of 6,745 miles between New York JFK and Tokyo Narita
x 2 (round-trip) =
13,490 miles
x 2 (Double miles bonus) =
26,980 miles

Congratulations, you just earned yourself a round-trip MilesAAver domestic ticket for one person on American Airlines within the contiguous US and Canada! Essentially, any nonstop AA or JAL flight over 6,250 miles booked accordingly will give you enough miles for the free domestic ticket. Boston, Chicago and Dallas flights are over this number, while flights from the West Coast will leave you a little short.

If you have an American Airlines credit card, you can earn bonus miles from the cost of the airfare… 3,408 miles in the New York-Tokyo example.

Is it worth it to pay the extra to secure the miles bonus? In an era where other airlines are switching miles-earning to a revenue model, which to many is making American Airlines the more frequent-flier airline (failed grammer of the day on that one), this is an offer to seriously consider. Then again, if you are more price-conscious, don’t worry about double miles. Besides, for February 4-11, the cheapest fare is still $1,328 on American. 🙂

As always, I disclaim any responsibility if you decide to do some fare-hunting. Corrections from any savvy travelers out there would be greatly appreciated! The fares in this post are correct as of January 24 2015,12 Noon Eastern Time, and are always subject to change.