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

By David Flynn, July 27 2015

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
David

David Flynn

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

riley

riley

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 574

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

kikoenaivoice

kikoenaivoice

08 Mar 2012

Total posts 27

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).

BeijingBogan

BeijingBogan

21 Feb 2015

Total posts 74

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. 

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 920

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.

riley

riley

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 574

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

flex737

flex737

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

02 Mar 2013

Total posts 19

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

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 920

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

boris

boris

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 6

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.

 

rowwdy

rowwdy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2013

Total posts 135

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. 

durnvase

durnvase

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Dec 2014

Total posts 6

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

Renato

Renato

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Nov 2014

Total posts 7

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.

Bruce Martin

Bruce Martin

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2015

Total posts 2

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 

boris

boris

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 6

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.

RR70

RR70

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Feb 2017

Total posts 4

Another option is to check in at Tokyo City Air Terminal and take the Airport Limousine Bus from there. Discount fares and you don't need to worry about your luggage.


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