While being a smaller one of the two main airports serving Tokyo, Narita airport is striving to prove it is the better one. To increase its capabilities, the airport is preparing for a series of changes big and small: while the opening of the third runway is not due until the next decade, the airport is going to operate longer hours starting this winter season, Koji Takahashi, Executive Officer at Narita Airport explains speaking at AIR Convention Europe 2019. 

“Narita airport is facing trying times,” states Takahashi, explaining that the airport is preparing to handle foregin tourist numbers are growing in Japan. For instance, the Japanese government has set the target to reach 40 million inbound passengers in 2020. For comparison, this number stood at 31 million in 2018. 

Presumably, incoming passenger numbers will also jump up with three big events upcoming in Japan in 2019-2022. TokyoThe Rugby World Cup is starting in the city in September 2019. Following the abdication of Emperor Akihito of Japan in April 2019, the accession of his son and successor, Emperor Naruhito, is also to take place this year, in October. Finally, in 2020 the country will hold the Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

At the moment, the airport operates from 6 am to 11 pm or until midnight when needed. However, the extension of operating time, granted back in March 2018, is finally to come into force. Starting from winter 2019 schedule, Narita will operate one hour longer, until midnight, with option to extend service by half an hour. The relaxation of night restrictions will allow it to increase capacity by 78 additional flights. 

Even further boost is expected with the opening of the third runway. At that time, operating limits will be pushed by one hour in the morning, from 5 am, as well as prolonging the evening hours until 00:30 with flexible option to operate until 1 am. 

The agreement over night curfew was reached with authorities in March 2018 following “years” of negotiations. At the same time, the airport had other capacity boost measures granted: an extension of the second runway from 2,500 meters to 3,500, and the green light to build the third runway (3,500 meters), previously reported to be built in the next decade.