Tokyo's Haneda and Narita airports: a business traveller's guide

Tokyo's Haneda and Narita airports: a business traveller's guide

It's a pretty simply question. Narita vs Haneda – which of Tokyo's two international airports are better suited for the business traveller?

It's also a question that's only recently become relevant to Australians, with Qantas to debut Sydney-Haneda flights on July 31 and ANA set to follow in December 11, 2015.

However, Japan Airlines still flies from Sydney to Narita as its sole Aussie route, while from Saturday August 1 Qantas adds a new daily Brisbane-Narita service to the schedule.

If you're travelling directly onwards from either Narita or Haneda to another destination in Japan then your choice will largely be guided by which airline you're flying from Australia and which airport is better for the onwards connection.

But the majority of Japan-bound jetsetters are bound for the nation's capital. All else being equal, then, is one airport better than the other?

It mainly comes down to their distance from Tokyo.

Haneda has the edge because it's just 15km from Tokyo, compared to some 65km for Narita.

That's because Haneda was Tokyo's first international airport and still carries that branding – although it spend a few decades as a domestic-only airport when Narita opened in 1978 and took on all overseas flights, until Haneda resumed international flights out of a new terminal in 2010.

Haneda Airport to Tokyo

Haneda's close proximity to Tokyo often sees it described as a 'downtown' airport – in fact it's so close that you can catch a monorail to the city.

Running along the edge of Tokyo Bay, the Tokyo Monorail is the easiest and also the most scenic option after landing at Haneda's impressive international terminal.

¥490 (a mere $5.50) and 15 minutes sees you at Hamamatsucho station on the busy JR Yamanote line, which encircles Tokyo, as well as the more regional Keihin Tohoku subway line – and those in turn will get you almost anywhere you're likely to be going.

A more pedestrian alternative is the Keikyu Airport line, with drab box-like suburban trains to Shinagawa taking 11 minutes at ¥410 (A$4.50) from where you connect to other lines.

Narita Airport to Tokyo

Narita's sheer distance from Tokyo, however, sees two high-speed trains darting between the airport and the city.

The sleek Skyliner will whisk you to the mega-suburb of Ueno – at speeds of up to 160kmh – in 41 minutes for ¥2,470 (A$27) although international visitors can buy their ticket in advance online for ¥2,200 (A$24).

The Narita Express or N'EX sprints through to Tokyo central station in about an hour, with trains continuing to the either Shinagawa in another 10 minutes, or Shibuya and Shinjuku within 25 minutes.

Tickets on the 'standard' cars cost ¥3,020 (A$34) for a one-way ride to Tokyo and ¥3,190 (A$35) if you're continuing to Shinagawa, Shibuya or Shinjuku.

¥4,560 (A$51) and ¥4,730 (A$52) respectively will see you arrive in the same time but with a slightly more comfy leather-clad seat and a little extra legroom in one of the first class 'Green Cars'.

But the difference is a negligible two inches – 41 inches in a Green Car against 39 inches in other carriages – so apart from the Green Cars also being less crowded and as a result a little quieter, there's not much reason to stump up the extra A$17.

Best value is the ¥4,000 (A$44) N'EX Tokyo Round Trip Ticket, which is valid for 14 days and includes a transfer from the N'EX to all major stations in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The rather grandly-named 'airport limousine' buses will take you directly from the airport to your hotel for around ¥3,100 (A$34) but be prepared for a long commute – the ride can easily stretch to two hours when crawling through peak-hour traffic.

Using rail passes on airport express trains

Your JR Rail Pass – which must be purchased before you arrive in Tokyo – can be used on Haneda's Tokyo Monorail and the Narita Express.

Prepaid Suica or Pasmo cards also works on the Tokyo Monorail, Haneda's Keikyu line and Narita's Keisei Skyliner.

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David Flynn

David Flynn (David)

[email protected] / @djsflynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.
 

5 Comments

  • riley

    riley

    27 Jul, 2015 10:57 am

    Someone's going to find this artcile really handy come Saturday!

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  • kikoenaivoice

    kikoenaivoice

    27 Jul, 2015 12:24 pm

    Just to add on, if you take Skyliner you can catch it to Nippori station, there is direct connectivity to JR Yamanote line as well. If you take it to Keisei Ueno station, you need to exit the station and walk one round to JR Ueno station.

    If I'm not wrong there is also a fixed rate taxi service from Haneda airport which is about 6,000 yen I think.

    As for Limousine Bus, I agree it can take long especially from Narita but they offer direct access to major hotels within Tokyo (ie there is a limousine bus stop at the hotel itself).

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  • BeijingBogan

    BeijingBogan

    27 Jul, 2015 12:43 pm

    Just add a comment to the Suica, Pasmo (or whichever compatible stored value card: i personally use Osaka's ICOCA) 

    Get one!

    They are usable at many vending machines, Lawson, Family Mart and other convenience stores, in addition to transport as noted above. 

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  • madge

    madge

    27 Jul, 2015 02:30 pm

    Are there any Suica / Pasmo cards for sale at Haneda?

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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    27 Jul, 2015 04:45 pm

    They should be. You get them from the train ticket vending machines. Not all the machines have them, and I've never gone looking for them at the HND train stations, but I don't see why there wouldn't be at least one machine that has them.

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  • BeijingBogan

    BeijingBogan

    28 Jul, 2015 02:07 am

    as himeno says - should be sold at most train stations, and definitely at the bigger ones. There are also machines that allow you to top up value.

    I recall them being all very conveniently placed. 

    These cards are super handy when you don't want to faff about with coins !

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  • Matthew Taylor

    netgun

    29 Jul, 2015 10:32 am

    Yes you can buy Suica from the machines there. The ticket machines are located just outside the station gates at the airport. Hit the English button and you're off and running!

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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    27 Jul, 2015 04:31 pm

    Much easier to change from the Skyliner at Nippori (the stop before Ueno). Linked to the JR Yamanote line with an easy transfer gate between the Keisei and JR sides of the station. At Ueno, you have to leave Keisei-Ueno station and walk down the street to the JR Ueno station (and the subway line enterance).

    You can use Pasmo/Suica on the Skyliner, but you also have to pay the express surcharge and get a ticket at the booth as they are assigned seats.

     

    Why are you using photos of NRT T1 when no flight from Australia uses T1?

     

    Haneda is 15km from Tokyo Station. It is within the 23 special wards (?ta) and is part of the Tokyo Metropolis. Narita on the other hand is in a different prefecture (Chiba) (this would be like landing at BNE or OOL and going to Lismore or Coffs Harbour).

     

    Not all international flights moved from HND when NRT opened (Taiwan mostly) and HND mantained "charter" flights to Korea and parts of China.

     

    JR are planning to build their own line to HND which will take 18 minutes to Tokyo Station. It's meant to open for limited service by the 2020 Olympics.

    The Keiky? line takes 20 mins to Shinagawa, not 11. Some Keiky? line trains route through the Odeo subway line and to the Keisei line for links between HND and NRT.

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  • riley

    riley

    27 Jul, 2015 04:34 pm

    Nowhere in the article does it suggest you should use one airport over the other. It's just a comparison.

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  • flex737

    flex737

    28 Jul, 2015 10:05 am

    Any suggestions on where to stay at Narita for a 12hr overnight stopover? 

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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    28 Jul, 2015 07:16 pm

    One of the hotels near the airport or in Narita City. It's not worth heading into Tokyo for a 12 hour overnight stop.

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  • flex737

    flex737

    29 Jul, 2015 11:32 am

    Thanks! Do the hotels provide a continuous service from the airport? Or do you need to arrange a time for pick up?

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  • William Wood

    boris

    29 Jul, 2015 04:24 pm

    Stay at Hotel Nikko Narita. There is a free shuttle bus from stop 33 at terminal 2. The cost is around 10,000 yen per night depending on howe far ahead you book.

     

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  • William Wood

    boris

    29 Jul, 2015 04:27 pm

    Further info - go to http://www.nikko-narita.com/ to book. There is also a bus timetable there under the access tab.

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  • Michael Gibbons

    rowwdy

    29 Jul, 2015 07:33 pm

    Mercure is great. Cheap and maybe 3.5 star? Right in Narita village and a short stroll to the temple and gardens. Lots of good food around too. There's an hourly shuttle and the JR and keisei stations are over the road. Family mart is outside the station too. Perfect spot for an intro to Japan. Many of the western airline crews use it. 

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  • Roy Chen

    durnvase

    29 Jul, 2015 09:09 pm

    There is also a Radisson and a Hilton, both are reasonably priced with shuttle bus connection

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  • Renato Jean Gaylican

    Renato

    29 Jul, 2015 11:49 pm

    I stayed at the Toyoko Inn Narita a couple of times. Basic hotel, but has all the essentials you need (plus Brekkie is free). Free bus shuttles run between the hotel and the terminals.

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  • Bruce Martin

    Bruce Martin

    29 Jul, 2015 04:34 pm

    Travel often from Gold Coast to Japan, principally Tokyo Narita with Jetstar. There is now no Business Class lounge at Narita and was informed now lounge for Qantas FF also. Damn it!  BM 

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  • William Wood

    boris

    29 Jul, 2015 04:53 pm

    If you are Qantas gold status or above, you can use Japan Airlines lounges. There are 2 business and 2 first lounges in Terminal 2.

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    29 Jul, 2015 05:14 pm

    Not when flying with Jetstar, you can't. Jetstar moved to a new terminal at Narita which makes the Qantas lounge out-of-reach for Jetstar passengers, regardless of Qantas Club membership or frequent flyer status.

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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    31 Jul, 2015 07:51 pm

    JQ, GK and the other LCCs operating at NRT moved into the new LCC T3.

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