Tokyo Narita International Airport is making long-term plans to increase its slot capacity, as it eyes opportunities enabled by longer-range narrowbody types.
The airport has projects underway in the coming decade, revolving around operating hours, runways, and terminals, says Koji Takahashi, vice-president of Narita International Airport Corporation’s sales and marketing department.
Long term, the projects will see the airport’s 300,000 annual slots grow to 500,000.
The airport operates from 06:00 in the morning until 23:00, but from the winter schedule of 2019 its closing time will be extended to midnight. The plan is related to the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020, and also will see improvements to taxiways that should see hourly aircraft movements grow from 68 to 72.
Narita, located a one hour train ride from downtown Tokyo, has two runways. A major part of its long-term capacity growth involves extending one runway and building a third.
Runway A (16R/34L) will remain unchanged at 4,000m, while the 2,500m long runway B (16L/34R) will be extended to 3,500m. A third runway (runway C) will be built with a length of 3,500m.
The airport still needs to acquire the land for both the runway B extension and runway C, says Takahashi. The two projects will likely take a decade to complete. When they are done, runways B and C will operate as a single runway system, using one for takeoffs and the other for landings.
Expansion at the airport has been a vexed issue for many years, and has previously been opposed by airport’s rural neighbors.
“Reaching the agreement took a very long time,” Takahashi explains. “Finally, in the last few months the government, airport corporation, and local community finally agreed on an extension and the building work. The community is changing. In the past they were against all building, but now they have realised the benefits that airport development brings.”
When the runway works are completed, Narita will open an hour earlier and close a half-hour later.
The airport is also planning renovations of terminal three, which will see its capacity grow from 7.5 million passengers per year to 9 million. A subsequent extension, which will will see capacity jump to 15 million. This work will also see a cargo handing facility moved.
Terminals one and two will also be renovated to ready them for the 2020 Olympics. A fourth terminal is likely to open in the next ten years, but its capacity has yet to be decided.
Takahashi adds that changes in aircraft technology that allow for longer ranges are double edged sword. While carriers such as Singapore Airlines can use new, long-haul types such as the Airbus A350-900 to reach US destinations directly, narrowbody developments such as the A321neo expand possibilities for regional destinations.
“The new aircraft types such as the A321neo are a very good opportunity for us to make new city pairs,” he says.
The new type will allow destinations such as Penang and Phuket to be accessed directly with narrowbodies. He adds that Jetstar Japan’s decision to add three A321LR’s from 2020 “is a big chance for us.”