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Monday, Nov. 1, 2010

Haneda resumes overseas service

Staff writer

Tokyo's Haneda airport resumed regular overseas flights Sunday for the first time in 32 years, embarking on a goal of transforming itself from a mostly domestic airport into a 24-hour international hub.

News photo
One for the road: A traditional Japanese lion dancer attempts to bite a passenger to wish her a safe flight at Cathay Pacific's boarding gate at Haneda airport on Sunday. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Haneda's shift took place at a dawn with the departure of a Japan Airlines flight to San Francisco, followed by an All Nippon Airways flight to Los Angeles.

Haneda now connects Japan with 11 cities, including Paris, Shanghai and Honolulu. By the end of February, the airport plans to expand the list to 17 cities in 11 countries or regions, including London, New York and Detroit.

Travelers welcomed the move, mainly for the airport's convenient location in Ota Ward.

"It was so easy to get here," said Keiko Ito, a 55-year-old Kawasaki resident who was waiting in the lobby with a friend for a flight to Seoul.

Ito, a teacher of Korean cooking, said it usually takes about two hours to get to Narita airport, the Kanto region's main international gateway, and that she used to stay overnight at a nearby hotel before and after flights to lessen her fatigue.

"I used to get so tired by the time I reached Narita airport because I needed to change trains many times," Ito said. "But today, it took me only about 45 minutes by bus to get here."

Traveling overseas will be much easier now that Haneda has regularly scheduled flights, Ito said.

"It feels a lot different. I will travel to South Korea more often," she said.

At the check-in counter, a 1-year-old child and her family also praised the airport's international shift.

"It took us about half the time it takes to get to Narita airport," said the woman, who would only identify herself by her family name, Honda.

Honda, who resides in Shanghai, said it used to take her family about two hours to reach Narita from a relative's house in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Although the ticket was a little bit more expensive than buying a ticket out of Narita, Honda said it was worth it.

"Considering expressway tolls and the time we can save, it makes up for the cost," she said.

Tokyo International Airport, as Haneda is officially known but never called, had been relegated to domestic flights for three decades, serving as a hub for 48 local airports. It also accommodated a limited number of chartered short-haul flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Hong Kong.

With its new international terminal, however, more than 50 international flights are scheduled to depart daily via 20 carriers, including Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways and Malaysia-based low-cost carrier AirAsia X.

"The ties are made stronger between Hong Kong and Tokyo by this launch," Simon Large, the manager of Cathay Pacific's Japanese branch, said during the inauguration ceremony for the new terminal.

Cathay Pacific's first flight to Haneda airport took place in 1959. In 1978, it moved its operations to newly opened Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture.

The airline now plans to operate two flights a day to Hong Kong from Haneda.

"We think the cultural and business ties between these regions are getting closer as a result of this service," Large said.

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The Japan Times

Article 2 of 5 in National news

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