Your Trip to Tokyo Could Soon Get a Lot Easier

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The canyon takes on a different beauty at night.
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Tokyo is routinely voted the best city in the world by our readers, thanks to its ultramodern, neon-lit skyscrapers and tranquil temples, unmatchable street style and centuries-old etiquette. (That it has more Michelin stars than any other place on earth doesn’t hurt, either.) But even upon landing, getting to all of that ramen and sushi and udon typically takes a little while: Because of airport slot restrictions, most flights from the U.S. land at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, which is 50 miles east of the city center. As Mark Ellwood previously reported, there’s a bus from the airport to Tokyo that costs about $30, but that trip can take up to two hours. The Narita Express rail is faster at 90 minutes, but requires changing trains—luggage in tow, mind you. Taxis can cost a cool $200, one-way.

Soon, though, it may be easier to avoid Narita altogether: Last week, the Big Three U.S. airlines announced that they were seeking slots at Tokyo Haneda, the city’s oft-overlooked “second” airport, which is approximately 15 minutes from the city center by train. (These slots, or scheduling openings, were made available after the U.S. in January agreed to open up flight paths around nearby military bases come 2020, according to Reuters.) United Airlines put in a bid for six slots, as did Delta Air Lines, and American Airlines is bidding for four. Hawaiian Airlines also requested three slots. Now, the U.S. Department of Transportation just has to decide how they want to award them.

Specifically, United wants to connect Haneda from Newark Liberty, Chicago O’Hare, Washington Dulles, Los Angeles International, Houston George Bush, and Guam’s Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport. Delta pitched daily flights from Seattle, Detroit, Atlanta, and Portland (Oregon), and two flights a day between Haneda and Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. American has proposed daily flights from Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and a twice-daily flight from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Hawaiian, for its part, said it would add three flights a day from Honolulu to Haneda.

The hustle to Haneda is hardly surprising: Earlier this month, Japan’s transport minister Keiichi Ishii said 50 slots would be created at Haneda ahead of the 2020 Olympics, and that U.S. and Japanese airlines would get 12 each, according to The Japan Times. Crunch the numbers, and you’ll see that the airlines are applying for a total of 19 slots, which means not everyone will get what they want.

U.S. airlines currently offer six flights a day to Haneda: American has service from Los Angeles, Delta flies from Los Angeles and Minneapolis, United has routes from San Francisco, and Hawaiian operates flights from Honolulu and Kona, according to aviation blog One Mile at a Time. Which airline wins what remains to be seen, but there’s one thing we do know: the new routes would launch just in time for 2020 summer flights, which means you may want to hold off on booking that flight to Tokyo—for now, at least.

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