Airport delays are some of the most stressful hiccups to deal with when you’re travelling. A delayed flight—especially a connecting flight—can throw a wrench in your plans and ruin everything. Besides the hassle of rebooking flights, possibly shelling out more money, and wrangling schedules, there’s also the emotional distress (plus jet lag and exhaustion!) that travellers have to deal with.
If you’re flying from or passing through Tokyo’s Haneda airport, however, you probably won’t have that problem, because the mega airport (with more than 30 million seats) has been named the world’s most punctual mega airport for the fourth year in a row by OAG. The aviation analyst group looked at data from 58 million flight records from 2018 in order to make its assessments.
Haneda, officially called Tokyo International Airport, is the fifth busiest airport in the world. In 2018, almost 87 million passengers passed through Haneda airport. Its passenger demand is huge, surpassing other major international airports such as Chicago O’Hare (83 million), London Heathrow (80 million), and Hong Kong International Airport (74.5 million).
Despite receiving such heavy footfall, Haneda managed to deliver 85.6 percent of its flights on time in 2018. For a mega airport—with over 30 million departing sears per year—that figure is impressive and shocking. The average for an airport of similar capacity is only 77.1 percent in flight punctuality.
For major airports (with 20 – 30 million seats), Moscow Sheremetyevo is the most punctual, with 87 percent of flights on time. For large airports (10 – 20 million seats), it’s Japan’s Osaka Airport that takes the cake, with 88.2 percent flight punctuality.
Panama City is the most punctual medium airport (5 – 10 million seats), with on-time performance of 91.11%, while Belarus’ Minsk National Airport holds the title for small airports (2.5 – 5 million seats), with 92.35% of flights arriving or departing on schedule.
So how does Haneda airport do it? A combination of Japanese punctuality, sheer determination, rigorous discipline and innovative and ground-breaking technologies.

Punctuality is ingrained in the Japanese culture

The Japanese are renowned the world over for their fascinating culture—an amazing mix of the traditional and the modern—as well as their discipline in all areas of life. This discipline lends itself to punctuality, an extremely important facet of the Japanese way of living.
The Japanese have punctuality etched into their characters from the time they are young children. As adults, it is second nature to them. The staff at Haneda airport exhibit the punctuality and efficiency that is synonymous with the Japanese.

The baggage handlers of Haneda

Baggage handlers have one of the most important jobs in an airport, especially one the size of Haneda. In the domestic part of the airport, Japan Airlines’ baggage handlers carry around 17,000 bags every single day.
Their job is crucial to the timeliness of the mega airport’s operations. Transferring luggage from one plane to another or delivering bags from a plane to the baggage area must be done in under 10 minutes.
Handlers are known to be agile, quick and extremely efficient. Word is that they even stretch at the beginning and end of shits to prevent muscle strain from their physically demanding jobs.
To boost efficiency in the airport, Japan Airlines is testing out a new robotic suit called ATOUN Model Y, which is a wearable exoskeleton that gives extra support to the lower half of the body. It uses motors and sensors to anticipate when mechanical assistance is needed, with its main support focused on the lower back.
Baggage handlers using the robotic suit report that the luggage they transport feels lighter, and pain and muscle strain is kept to a minimum.
According to Kotaru Shintani, ground handling supervisor for Japan Airlines, the suit has improved the speed and accuracy of the work. Baggage handlers also report that thanks to the suit, they are not as tired at the end of a long day.
Besides the Model Y, Japan Airlines and ATOUN are developing a device for arm support, which should increase the cargo they handle and open up the pool of workers.
At Haneda, they are proud of their punctuality.

“I work with a sense of pride knowing we can ensure that planes take off on time,” says Shintani.

Haneda is the mega airport and the only one amongst the world’s five busiest to be given the “first rate” status. It has also held the title of “World’s Cleanest Airport” by Skytrax World Airport Awards, and even the government gave it a “Japan Toilet Award” for its immaculately-kept bathrooms.
The accolades don’t stop there. Haneda also took the second top spot in the 2019 Skytrax World’s Best Airport rankings, just one place behind Singapore’s Changi Airport, which is the World’s Best Airport. Haneda also scooped up the award for the World’s Best Domestic Airport, and for best airport facilities for reduced-mobility passengers. /TISG