London will become the second European city after Paris to boast a direct connection to Tokyo’s convenient Haneda airport.
British Airways announced today that it will link Heathrow with Haneda five times a week (daily from London except Wednesday and Thursday) starting on February 19 next year.
The new non-stop service, the first offered by a European airline since Haneda was closed to international flights several decades ago, is aimed at the business market.
It will be operated by a four class B777 and will complement BA’s existing daily B747 service to Tokyo Narita (the city’s main international airport) which will continue unchanged.
Haneda (the city’s original airport and one currently used mainly by domestic flights) is a far more useful facility for executives heading for central Tokyo.
According to the trade bible OAG, Haneda is 19 km from downtown whereas Narita is 66 km away. Haneda also scores as it provides many more domestic connections than Narita.
The downside is that (to prevent carriers defecting en masse from Narita) the local authorities have placed onerous restrictions on the times which long-haul international airlines can use Haneda.
According to a BA insider, the carrier’s inconvenient timings are a result of having to work within those parameters. The airline realises that it must establish itself in the profitable Tokyo market before its European rivals. The idea is that both BA and the foreign carriers will negotiate with the Japanese authorities in the months and years ahead with a view to getting the Haneda restrictions eased.
BA’s outbound flight from Heathrow leaves T5 at 0800 to arrive into Haneda the following day at 0500. The return service departs Haneda at 0625 and lands back into Heathrow T5 at 1000 the same morning. Flight time is around 12 hours. From March 27, the situation improves slightly as the summer timings call for flights to arrive and depart Heathrow one hour later.
BA’s timings contrast with those of the jointly-operated Air France and Japan Airlines (JAL) service between Paris CDG and Haneda. This daily service will start at the end of October and be operated by JAL – see Route of the Month in the forthcoming November issue. The Air France/JAL schedules meet the Haneda restrictions while at the same time being more convenient for passengers.
BA says its Heathrow-Haneda return fares will start from £5,458 in first and £2,995 in business class. Lead-in fares for premium economy start at £1,238 with economy offered for upwards of £721. But in time honoured fashion passengers can expect to find special rates, bonus FFP miles and so on nearer the launch date.
* More news from BA is the announcement that it will serve Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo with separate flights from March 27 next year. Currently the route stops first in Sao Paulo before continuing to the Argentine capital.
For more information visit ba.com.
Report by Alex McWhirter