Sky high: Why foreign carriers pay more to land in Japan

posted on December 18, 2015

On one global ranking chart, Haneda, Narita and Kansai airports occupy the top three spots. Unfortunately for three of Japan's international airports, this is not for passenger satisfaction or facilities, but for the highest landing and parking fees which airlines pay for their planes.

Some reductions have been announced in recent years, but most of these are targeted at the new low cost carriers (LCCs), which the government has been trying to attract to Japanese airports, leaving established operators still forking out significantly more than they do at other major hubs.

Despite the authorities pledging to make Tokyo more accessible in the run-up to the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, European airlines hold out little hope for meaningful reductions in the high fees. Those in the industry believe there is a danger of Japanese airports continuing to lose status in the face of stiff competition from major Asian hubs - Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul's Incheon - with lower fees. Many believe they are also subsidising both the new LCCs and unprofitable local airports through the fee system, which is overseen by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT).

The high landing fees at Narita, where a new dedicated LCC third terminal opened in April, are also due to the extensive perimeter security (a legacy of the battles that occurred with local residents when the airport was first constructed), says Swiss Air Japan country manager Noburo Okabe. Albeit the passport checkpoint on vehicles entering the airport - long criticised as meaningless, wasteful and time-consuming - finally ended earlier this year, he adds. Another factor, affecting all domestic airports, is the relatively high wages in Japan compared to countries like South Korea.

"We also assume the government raises money from the landing fees to subsidise loss-making regional airports, though no official will say that openly," suggests Okabe.

One manager at a European airline, who asked not to be identified, suggested that, while the fees do heavily burden established carriers at the major airports, passengers pay in other ways elsewhere.

source by japantoday
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