Air France Haneda timings offering easier domestic connections

There were high hopes when two European carriers, namely Air France and British Airways, recently began serving Tokyo’s “close-in” Haneda airport (see Centre Stage, Business Traveller April 2011)  a

But several months later and we find that Air France is the only carrier of the two to have made a go at serving Haneda. 

British Airways has suspended its five times a week Haneda route (its daily Narita flights continue to operate) until at least the end of May owing to poor demand.

The recent earthquake must have had an impact. But BA’s scheduling (a result of curfew restrictions imposed on international flights by the Japanese authorities) in and out of Haneda must also have been a contributory factor. That is because BA cannot offer the same scope for making connections at both London and Tokyo.

If it were to operate today, BA’s service would depart Heathrow at 0910 (too early for short-haul arrivals) with an arrival into Haneda at 0455, and the return leg leaving Haneda at 0625 (too early for domestic connections) with an arrival into Heathrow at 1040.

It seems that Air France has been smarter. Rather than operating the route itself, the French carrier has spread its risks by co-operating with Japan Airlines (JAL).  Not only does JAL operate the route on Air France’s behalf but, because its plane originates in Tokyo, the curfew restrictions can be minimised.

A departure from Paris CDG at 1100 allows time for passengers to arrive from all over the UK and mainland Europe. When the flight lands into Haneda at 0600, passengers will find themselves aboard one of JAL many domestic services within a couple of hours.

And the same works on the return. A departure at 0035 is convenient for passengers arriving into Haneda off an evening domestic flight. An arrival into CDG at 0620 allows lots of time for passengers to arrive at towns and cities throughout the whole of Europe.

Now matters have improved further with the news that Air France is expanding co-operation with JAL at Haneda. The idea is that international passengers will find an “AF” code on more JAL domestic services. This should lead to even easier transfers for passengers bound for/heading from the likes of Fukouka, Hiroshima, Kagoshima, Miyuazi, Nagasaki, Okinawa and Sapporo.

What is so special about connecting at Haneda? Cannot the same connections be performed at Narita? No. Narita handles mainly international flights. Domestic connections are limited at Narita and passengers often find themselves having to make an overnight stop or else trek between the two airports.

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Report by Alex McWhirter

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  • On the plus side, if you connect at Narita, European flights arrive in the middle of the day, and a bank of ANA or JAL connections can take you to 7-8 key domestic destinations in the late afternoon, and (if you stay within airline alliance) you don’t have to take a bus to change terminals as you would at Haneda

    Better still, connect via Incheon to dozens of Japanese destinations, and avoid changing planes/terminals in Tokyo altogether

  • Hello Cityprofessional

    I take your point about Incheon. Loss of connecting traffic via Seoul’s gateway is believed to be one of the reasons why the Japanese authorities are keen to develop Haneda as an international gateway.

    I also agree that Narita’s ability to offer same terminal connections is a bonus.

    But not all flights from Europe arrive into Narita during the middle of the day. Book a European carrier and (except for a single Air France flight) you find yourself reaching Narita around 0800 to 0930 so connecting times may be lengthy.

    The situation is no better on the return. Because every airline (with the exception of that single Air France service) departs Narita for Europe just before lunchtime, same day domestic connections may be unavailable.

    A further advantage of using Haneda for connections is that, compared with Narita, there are many more domestic flights so if schedules are disrupted it will be easier to find an alternative.

    Alex McWhirter

  • Besides the obvious drop in traffic due to the earthquake and tsunami disasters, I can tell you the bad schedules dictated by the Japanese government make Haneda undesirable compared to Narita. As a long-term Tokyo resident, getting to an international flight departing at 5:30 AM is not simple considering the lack of public transportation and the 60-90 minute buffer needed before departure. Trains end around midnight here. I considered flying out of Haneda for novelty sake, but decided to stick with the better departure times and wider range of options at Narita.

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