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January 2019

Feature Article

Capacity Enhancement of Narita International Airport

by Daisuke Takagi


According to the air transport demand forecast made by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), demand at metropolitan airports is expected to reach near the limit of currently planned capacity in the early 2020's. On this account, MLIT established the "Metropolitan Airports Capacity Enhancement Technology Subcommittee" consisting of academics and experts under the Basic Policy Subcommittee of Aerospace Caucus, Council of Transport Policy, which compiled possible technical options for further capacity enhancement of the metropolitan airports, and announced them in July 2014. Among the proposed options, construction of the 3rd runway, extension of Runway B, and relaxation of restrictions on night flights in Narita International Airport have been discussed for realization at a four-party council (MLIT, Chiba prefecture, 9 municipal governments around Narita Airport, and Narita International Airport Corporation (NAA),) since September 2015. At the four-part council meeting that was held in March 2018, we reached a final conclusion as to our proposal on further capacity enhancement.


(1) Current situation

At Narita Airport, Open Skies facilitated an increase in the number of destination cities as well as the participation of new airlines, and domestic flights also increased because domestic LCCs started to use Narita as their hub. With these developments, understanding and cooperation from the local residence made the increase of departure and arrival slot limits to 300,000 annually and introduced flexibility in late night flight restrictions and non-stopping of automobiles at the airport area gates. As a result, the volume of foreign visitors and domestic travelers has increased substantially, and Narita Airport is contributing towards the development for our nation to become tourism oriented.

It is the air transport demand from Asia that will drive growth of the world airline market in the future. The competition for attracting air transport demand from Asia has already begun. Major Asian and Middle Eastern airports are presently growing rapidly by capturing the growth of the Asia market, including freight demand. In this situation, Narita Airport is no exception to being in severe competition with other major Asian airports. The major airports in the Asia region will carry out large scale capacity expansions between 2017 and 2019, which is anticipated to further intensify the competition for attracting flight routes among international airports in the years to come.

(2) Future Vision

The number of aircraft arrival/departure slots (domestic flights + international flights) at Greater Tokyo Capital Area Airports is expected to exceed the currently planned capacity in FY2022 in the strong and moderate growth projections, and in FY2027 in the low growth projection. (The number is expected to reach 780,000 to 940,000 in FY2032.)

According to the demand projection made by the government and NAA, the number of aircraft arrival/departure slots at Narita Airport is expected to exceed 300,000 a year in the 2020's, and reach 500,000 a year from the early 2030's to the late 2040's. Furthermore, according to demand projection made by NAA, at the time the annual number of aircraft arrival/departure slots reaches 500,000, the annual number of passengers is expected to become 75 million, and the annual air cargo volume is expected to become 3 million tons. (Results in FY2015 are; 235,000 arrivals/departures, 38 million passengers, and 2 million tons of air cargo volume.)



(1) New runway plan

For the reasons mentioned above, Narita Airport needs to secure the sufficient departure and arrival slots required to further the capacity enhancement measures for Greater Tokyo Capital Area airports. With regard to specific locations of Runway B and C, Runway B will be extended northward so that the missed approach area of Runway B will not overlap with Runway C. Also, we will make adjustments so that the layout plan conforms to the plans for construction of the Metropolitan Inter-City Expressway (Ken-ou-do). It is necessary to expand the airport site by 1,000ha in order to make the 500,000 annual aircraft movement per year available. Considering the designated city planning area and the residential area in the surrounding area of the airport, the candidate area for an expanded airport site will be as follows;

(2) Relaxation of restrictions on night flights

In order to prepare to offer a flight schedule to suit the airline business demand in the future, Narita Airport has made a case study of the flight schedules that would need time slots during the late night and early morning. The data for this case study was based on the 500,000 annual traffic movements of aircraft as was discovered through hearings with airline companies. As a result, it was confirmed that making operating hours from 4:00 pm to 2:00 am is ideal to further enhance capacity at Narita Airport without falling behind in the competition with other airports. However, due to the nature of Narita Airport being an inland airport, we have received many opinions and demands from residents during explanatory meetings, and the Chiba prefectural governor and the liaison council of local governments in areas around Narita Airport have requested MLIT and NAA to review the proposal twice. Under such conditions, the four-party council meeting held in March 2018 reached a final agreement on a proposal that makes operating hours from 5:00 pm to 12:30 am, which ensures that quiet hours under the flight routes will be kept at 7 hours. Since the relaxation of restrictions on night flights will put a heavy strain on the local residents, NAA has proposed countermeasures against night and early morning flights, such as installation of internal windows in bedrooms and a limit imposed on equipment for flight operations during late-night and early-morning hours, in addition to taking conventional environmental action.


(1) Future schedule of further capacity enhancement

Further capacity enhancement will go through the following steps in the future:

Temporary relaxation of restrictions on night flights will be implemented in advance at Runway A for the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, while procedures for extension of Runway B, Runway C, etc., will be promoted promptly.

(2) Effects of further capacity enhancement

By increasing the departure and arrival slot capacity of Narita Airport and capturing the growth of economically developing Asian countries through further capacity enhancement, Narita Airport is expected to see significant increase of passengers and cargo volume, and will bring about various positive effects in areas around the airport, such as industrial development, infrastructure upgrades, and the improvement of living environments.

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