Business aviation destination guide: Tokyo, Japan

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Ops Alert: High-traffic events impacting Tokyo

Beginning summer 2019 and extending into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be an extreme high-traffic period for business aviation in Tokyo and Japan. Some of the upcoming high-traffic events include:

Universal Aviation Japan can answer your operational questions and help you navigate this busy period.

Tokyo is a safe, modern city well-equipped to provide first-rate services for business aviation. With proper pre-planning, operators can expect a pleasant experience. Upcoming high-traffic events will put a strain on local airport infrastructure and services, so it’s advised to begin planning now.

Here is everything you need to know about operating to Tokyo.

1. Airports

Tokyo is served by two airports – Haneda (RJTT) and Narita (RJAA) – and both have their pros and cons from the general aviation (GA) operating perspective. The good news is that both locations offer easier GA access and less onerous lead time requirements than was the case just a few years ago. RJTT is available to GA 24 hours while RJAA allows operations only 0600-2259 local. Although slots can be a little more challenging to obtain for RJTT they can, in many cases, be set up with 24-48 hours’ notice.

Location in relation to destination

RJAA is a 1 – 1.5-hour drive (65 km / 40 mi) to central Tokyo (depending on traffic and destination) while closer-in RJTT is typically a 15-40-minute drive (20 km / 12.5 mi). Helicopter service can be arranged from RJAA to many locations around Tokyo, but only one helicopter is available currently to downtown Tokyo with seating capacity for six (without baggage) or four with baggage. The cost of this helicopter service is approximately $3,000 each way. There’s no helicopter service between RJTT and central Tokyo.

Airport hours and flexibility

RJAA is generally more flexible in terms of obtaining and revising airport slots and making schedule revisions if you feel you may need to change schedules to operate between 2300 – 0600 local, however, 24 hours RJTT will give you better operational flexibility in this regard.

  • RJTT: This location offers 18 GA parking spots which, from time to time, will all be occupied. Note that daytime GA slot availability recently increased from 12 to 16. RJTT is available 24 hours and offers a general aviation terminal (GAT) with its own customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) clearance channel. While slot availability has recently been boosted at this location, max parking time on the ground has been reduced from 10 to 5 days.
  • RJAA: This location has 16 GA parking spots, and availability is usually high. Airport slots are seldom an issue here and can usually be obtained same day when needed. Note that RJAA has a hard curfew at 2259 local and airport overtime is not possible. A GAT with CIQ clearance channel is available, and longer-term parking is possible. While GA parking is officially limited to 30 days, parking extensions are negotiable with the airport authority.
  • Infrastructure: Condition of runways, taxiways, and ramp areas at RJAA are good. While there is always some minor construction activity going on, this does not usually impact GA operations. While infrastructure conditions are also good at RJTT, the condition of the taxiway leading to/from the GA parking area is not ideal. In this particular area, there’s no taxiway lighting, and the GA ramp is prone to significant water puddling. To resolve these deficiencies parts of RJTT GA ramp area are under construction, with some parking spots are currently unavailable. Aircraft hangar space is not commonly available at either Tokyo airport. During severe weather conditions such as typhoons, limited hangar accommodation may be secured but at a high price. Expect to pay about USD 4,000 per three hours for hangar use at RJTT or RJAA. Follow-me cars are provided for commercial and business aircraft at RJAA but only available for commercial aircraft at RJTT.
  • Airport slots: In most instances, slots can be confirmed for either airport by making a request the day before operation. In many cases, same-day slot requests will be accommodated. However, be mindful that you may not always get the exact operating times you request, particularly for RJTT. Airport slots are required for arrival/departure at both Haneda (RJTT) and Narita (RJAA). However, compared to the situation just a few years ago, airport slots are now much easier to obtain at both Tokyo airports.
  • PPRs: PPRs aren’t needed at either airport.
  • Operating to smaller locations: Many smaller domestic airports throughout Japan can be considered for GA. However, operating to such locations may involve additional planning. Additional lead time should be budgeted to set up handling, support services, and to confirm that all required ground support equipment (GSE) is on hand. Note that overnight parking at smaller domestic locations is often limited, and you may only be able to obtain one overnight. The good news is that air traffic control (ATC) personnel throughout Japan, even at smaller airfields, speak English. Note that it’s virtually never possible to operate into military airfields in Japan unless you’re an air ambulance flight.

2. Handling, FBOs & Equipment

Ground services and support at both Tokyo area airports and airports throughout Japan are among the best in the world. While this can be a somewhat expensive operating environment, services here are reliable and on time. Be aware of the hours of operating for RJAA vs. RJTT when looking to travel to this location.

Full ground handling support, infrastructure, and services are available at both Haneda (RJTT) and Narita (RJAA). It’s preferred that operators provide at least 24 hours’ advance notification to set up handling and general aviation terminal (GAT) services.

As there are no North American or European style fixed-base operators (FBOs) in Japan, be aware that you’ll be parked at a general airport ramp area. While the handling process goes very smoothly at larger airports, there can be issues with ground support equipment (GSE) and handling schedule overlap at smaller airport locations.

For more information on handling in Japan, Universal Aviation Japan can help.

3. Hotels

Airport hotels are available at RJAA and RJTT. In most cases, hotels close to the airports are not international hotel brands and are usually only 3-star properties, other than at RJAA, RJTT, and RJBB. For better quality crew accommodations, the city center area must be considered, with 4-star hotel pricing more than 200 USD/night.

Be mindful that hotels throughout much of Japan tend to sell out during specific tourism periods of the year. These include Golden Week (late April), cherry blossom blooming season (late March), summer holidays (August) and autumn (late October into November). During these peak periods, operators and ground handlers may need to become creative in sourcing crew accommodations. In some cases, it may be necessary to drive some two hours out of town to obtain adequate crew accommodations. Or, depending upon the crew, they may be willing to consider capsule or love hotel options within the cities.

4. Ground transport

Pre-paid ground transport (with driver) is the recommended option when visiting Tokyo. Taxi drivers in this region rarely speak English. For many, rental cars are not an ideal option as most signage is in Japanese, and vehicles are driven on the left side of the road. Pick up or drop off planeside is not possible at either Tokyo airport.

You can get a free quote for ground transportation through Universal-Drivania Chauffeurs.

5. Fuel and credit

While fuel availability and credit is very good at both Tokyo airports, it’s important to coordinate this early with your ground handler, so that manpower can be allocated and services set up. Best practice is to provide a copy of the fuel release, by email or fax, to your handler before arrival. Other forms of acceptable credit include fuel and aviation company cards. Note that fuelers do not accept cash payment. However, there is the option of paying the cash to the handler and having them extend credit for the fuel uplift.

6. In-flight catering

Catering can be sourced from in-flight caterers, hotels, and restaurants when operating to either RJTT or RJAA. For in-flight catering uplifts, we recommend allowing three days’ lead time as shorter notice may limit your options. Note that many hotels and restaurants in the RJTT and RJAA areas will not provide meals to be consumed off-site, for safety and liability reasons. So, it’s best to use in-flight catering services or to work with your handler to locate a restaurant willing to provide “take-out” options.

Your ground handler should have hotel and restaurant catering contacts and can supervise the delivery of catering airside. Varied menus, in PDF format, are available on request. You can check the free Air Culinaire Worldwide Menu app to see catering options and menus available.

7. Security

All airports in Japan are secure facilities with good fencing, patrols, surveillance, and access controls. While it’s possible to arrange to have a private guard monitor your aircraft while it’s on the ramp, the guard must be unarmed. Armed aircraft security is unavailable throughout Japan.

Both airports have fencing 3 meters in height, are patrolled by airport police and private security and have surveillance cameras airside. While additional passenger/crew and aircraft security may be arranged, it’s not generally required or recommended.

8. Permits

  • Overflight permits: Overflight permits are needed only for aircraft registered to non-ICAO countries or flying with an experimental airworthiness certificate.
    • Overflight permit documentation: Required information when submitting requests for an overflight permit includes:
      • Name and address of operator
      • Aircraft registration number, type, call sign, and flight number
      • Airworthiness certificate
      • Full schedule
      • ATC route in Japan with entry and exit points
      • Passenger and crew names, with ATP license numbers for pilots
      • Type of TCAS
      • Purpose of flight
      • Other information and documentation as required
  • Landing permits
    • Private: Landing permits are not needed for ICAO registered private non-revenue operations to an Airport of Entry (AOE) – with no domestic operations. A landing permit is required for operation into/from a non-AOE airport.
      • Lead time
        • Three days for business, fuel or medical purpose
        • Ten days for other purpose
        • 24 hours for executive pax with urgent business or emergency medical purpose
      • Non-ICAO registered aircraft require a landing permit – even for a single entry
      • Lead time
        • Three days for business, fuel or medical purpose
        • Ten days for other purpose
        • 24 hours for executive pax with urgent business or emergency medical purpose
    • Domestic Operations: A landing permit is required for all domestic operations within Japan
      • Lead time
        • Three days prior to start of domestic operation
        • 24 hours prior to start of domestic operation for urgent business purpose
        • 24 hours prior to start of domestic operation between RJTT and RJAA for urgent matter
    • Charter: Permits are required for all charter movements and applications must be submitted three business days before an operation or, in cases of business emergencies, 24 hours before departing from the originating airport.
      • Charter landing permit documentation:
        • Operator name and address
        • Aircraft registration number, type, call sign/flight number
        • Full schedule
        • Purpose of flight
        • Copy of charter contract between air operator and customer (contract must indicate charter price and be signed by both the operator’s representative and the customer)
        • Aircraft registration and airworthiness certificates
        • Aircraft noise certificate
        • Air operator certificate (AOC)
        • Pilots licenses and medicals for all pilots operating in Japan
        • Copy of certificate of letter confirming that aircraft is equipped with TCAS
        • Power of attorney
        • Complete passenger info: passport number/DOB/nationality/gender
    • Domestic operation permits: To fly any domestic flight leg within Japan, a domestic permit must be obtained, for both private and charter flights. A permit application must be submitted at least 24 hours before operation. The following information is required:
      • Name of operator and address
      • Aircraft registration number, type, call sign/flight number
      • Full schedule
      • Crew names and ATP license numbers
      • Passenger names
      • Purpose of flight
  • Permit validity:
    • Once granted, permits are now valid for -24 hours up to +72 hours without a permit revision
      • Operator can make the initial request with a validity of up to a maximum of +72 hours
  • Contingencies
    • Operators may list back-up aircraft or crew member on permit application.

9. Cabotage considerations

Cabotage is not permitted in Japan, and authorities are stringent in enforcing these rules. If you plan to fly a domestic leg within Japan, you may only take passengers who arrived in Japan aboard the same aircraft. For charter flights, the names of all passengers on each flight leg must be listed in the charter contract. It’s not allowable to pick up any passenger(s) in Japan and fly them on domestic flight legs.

10. Customs

Express customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) clearance options are available via general aviation terminals (GATs) at both Haneda (RJTT) and Narita (RJAA). While there are charges associated with these services, we recommend these options are as you’ll clear quicker and in a less public setting.

While both RJTT and RJAA offer GATs with customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) clearance, there are some differences to consider. Use of the GAT facilities to obtain express and more private CIQ clearance is optional but comes at a price – 260,000 Yen (about 2280 USD) per use at RJTT and 250,000 Yen (about 2200 USD) at RJAA. Lead time to set up CIQ clearance via a GAT is 24 hours before usage at RJTT and 1500 local the day prior for RJAA. Be mindful that GAT CIQ is available for passengers only at RJTT, while RJAA allows both passengers and crew to use this facility. Should passengers opt not to use the GAT clearance, they can expect waits of up to about 30 minutes at RJTT’s common terminal facility and up to 90 minutes at RJAA. Travel time between the aircraft and GAT is 3-10 minutes at RJTT, with an additional charge for transport, and about 10 minutes at RJAA with transport included in the facility charge.

  • Passports and passenger visas: Valid passports are mandatory for all passengers and crew entering Japan. If passengers require visas for Japan, based upon nationality, these must be obtained before arrival. Note that no visas are processed upon arrival and any passenger missing a required visa may be detained and deported. There are no exemptions for any GA operations.
  • Crew shore passes: Crewmembers, irrespective of nationality, do not require visas to enter Japan for up to eight days, for single port entry, or 16 days, for multiple port entries (including the day of arrival) so long as they’re listed on the gen dec as crew and have valid crew IDs.
  • Agriculture requirements: Quarantine in Japan has strict restrictions regarding foods that may be brought into the country. If you have any onboard catering, note that there are no restrictions applied to leaving it onboard. For more information on the food, you may or may not be able to import, see the Japanese government website to determine if the particular item is permitted or not.

11. Flight Planning

Flight planning for business aircraft operations in Japan is, for the most part, straight-forward. But, particular processes should be followed to avoid potential operational issues on arrival/departure. As each airport has specific procedures and local operating restrictions, it’s best to review all requirements with your 3rd-party provider or ground handler before the day of operation.

Click here for more details on flight planning to Tokyo and Japan best practices.

12. Weather

During winter months, particularly in the north island of Hokkaido, overnight parking may be severely restricted due to snow conditions and accumulation. Even at RJAA parking restrictions are put in place from time to time during winter season snow events.

June through mid-July is the rainy season in Japan, and airport operations occasionally shut down during heavy rain conditions. Typhoons are also a consideration September through October. There’s also the potential for airports to close due to high crosswinds and fog conditions.

13. Tech stops

For operators scheduling international fuel uplifts, we recommend using Nagoya (RJGG), Osaka (RJBB) or Sapporo (RJCC) as the best quick turn options, depending upon destination and your particular aircraft requirements.

14. Peak season/ high traffic events

Annual peak traffic periods in Tokyo include Golden Week (late April), cherry blossom blooming season (late March), summer holidays (August) and autumn (late October into November).

Throughout the latter half of 2019 and leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Tokyo and Japan will be busier than usual due to many high-traffic events. We recommend that operators begin planning now. Universal Aviation Japan can help you formulate your strategy and provide the latest information.

15. Regulatory Considerations

  • Falling Objects AIC: As part of Japan’s efforts to prepare for the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games and increase runway slot capacity, more flights will now be routed over the city center. As a result, Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) has issued an AIC detailing requirements to eliminate the risk of falling objects by General Aviation operations. (Diplomatic flight or Emergency flight may be exempt to this requirement.) Click here to read more.
  • New Japan Tourist Tax: The Japan International Tourist Tax went into effect on Jan. 7, 2019. The tax was levied by the Japanese National Tax Agency Ministry of Finance as part of governmental efforts to provide a permanent source of funds to expand and enhance Japan’s tourist infrastructure to make Japan the top tourist destination. Click here to read more.

16. Other considerations

  • Language issues: English may not be spoken at smaller local hotel chains and most taxi drivers in the region do not speak it.
  • Vaccinations: No vaccinations, or vaccination records, are necessary for Japan.
  • Traveling with pets: A pet dog or cat may be temporarily imported to Japan but only via the following airports: RJTT, RJAA, Nagoya (RJGG), Osaka (RJBB), Sapporo (RJCC), Fukuoka (RJFF), Kagoshima (RJFK), Kitakyushu (RJFR) or Naha (ROAH). However, preplanning for any pet importation is essential, and local regulations and limitations must be considered carefully. Upon the first point of entry into Japan, the animal must be inspected by Animal Quarantine Service. Note that if all importation documentation and requirements have not been met, the animal will be subject to quarantine for up to 180 days. If no issues are found with the health of the animal after completion of the quarantine period, and assuming the animal has survived the ordeal, a certificate will be granted and the animal may be imported. If the flight is just an international tech stop, and the animal stays onboard, no documentation or special permissions are needed. For more information on pet importation to Japan, see the websites for the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare.
  • Weapons onboard: Nobody, not even guard services for heads of state, may bring guns or weapons into Japan. If you have weapons on board, these must be declared before arriving in Japan. Upon arrival, these weapons will be screened by police and stored either in the police office or under seal in a compartment on board the aircraft.

Conclusion

Japan and Tokyo are about to enter an extremely high-traffic period over the next 18 months due to a series of major events. While the quality of business aviation services is generally very good in Tokyo, due to the anticipated amount of traffic, resources will be strained, so it’s best to begin planning and arranging slots, parking and services well in advance of your mission. Additionally, within the last 12 months, Japan has enacted several new regulatory requirements. Always check with your trip support provider for the latest information.


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