In a clear case of one-upmanship, Narita Airport hopes to trump its rival Haneda Airport by opening a third terminal for the exclusive use of low-cost carriers on Wednesday.
Haneda, which is closer to the centre of Tokyo, has created a stronger presence by expanding its slots for international flights.
Narita trails in attracting LLCs compared to other airports, such as Kansai Airport, but it plans to emphasise the ease of transferring from Terminal 3 to domestic flights.
The ceiling of the Terminal 3 building has been left exposed to reduce facility charges for LCC passengers.
In a twist, the terminal created what appears to be an athletic track so passengers can find the arrival and departure areas more easily.
For now, five airlines, including Japan Airlines-affiliated Jetstar Japan, will use the terminal, linking Narita with 19 domestic and international cities. Narita expects the number of passengers who use the airport to increase to 5.5 million this fiscal year.
For Terminal 3, the Narita Airport operator is to collect 1,020 yen (S$11.49) per passenger for use of the facility and 520 yen for security services from international flight passengers. The charges are about 40 per cent lower than the charges for Terminals 1 and 2.
Narita International Airport Corp. President Makoto Natsume is targeting LCCs as a major buttress in operating the airport.
At present, 14 LCCs fly to Narita Airport after Tigerair Taiwan launched flights between Narita and Taipei on Thursday.
LCCs now account for 24.1 per cent of all passenger airline seats for scheduled flights this summer, a sharp rise from 9.5 per cent for the winter of 2012.
As part of its efforts to further attract LCC operators, Narita is introducing this month free landing fees for LLCs for one year on condition that they operate flights to cities that have no direct flights from the airport.
A Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry senior official criticised the airport's strategy.
"There are so many [in the company] who spend their lives in an oblivious state of comfort, and that makes them slow to respond to any problems," he said. "They will really need to do everything they can to fix things."
Kansai Airport and Naha Airport opened terminals exclusively for LCCs in 2012, so Narita Airport needs to make up for the delay.
Compared to Haneda Airport, Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture is at a disadvantage because it is much further from the centre of Tokyo.
Passengers using Terminal 3 should arrive with time to spare as it takes about 15 minutes on foot to reach Terminal 2, which is connected to a railway station. The airport plans to operate a shuttle bus service between the two terminals to assist aged passengers.
Takeoff and landing slots are strictly limited between 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. at Narita Airport, which LCCs are not happy with, as they try to cut ticket prices by offering early morning and late night flights.