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Narita Airport vs KLIA2 Review - Part 2

Review of Narita Airport and KLIA2

This is a continuation of my Narita Airport vs KLIA2 review, where the first part was published in May 2019. And I have also done a comparison article review of KLIA2 vs Bangkok Don Mueang as well. 

My mission in doing these airport reviews is to help raise awareness about the state of our airport services, which many travellers are taking for granted. And by doing so, I hope to provide constructive feedback to the relevant parties - without bias and prejudice.

Narita Airport Review

Terminal Two Narita Airport
Narita Airport Terminal 2, simple and functional

Narita Airport is the main international airport for Japan, and if you are flying in from around the world into Japan, this would probably be the airport that you will arrive in Tokyo.  

Once known as New Tokyo International Airport, it was renamed as Narita International Airport to avoid confusion with Haneda International Airport which is also known as the Tokyo airport. 

If you did not already know, Tokyo Haneda was voted at No 2, was just behind Changi International which won the world’s best airport from Skytrax 2019. View the World’s Top 100 Airports of 2019. 

While both airports are not the same in terms of aircraft handling ie Narita being a full-service carrier airport while KLIA2 is an LCCT, you may be surprised to know that Narita does, in fact, open up slots for long haul budget airlines at its Terminal 3. 

As was reported in Part 1 of my article, Narita T3 was ranked World’s No 2 Best LCCT, which many do not know about.  

T2 and T3 Narita Airport
The walkway to Terminal 2 and 3 of Narita Airport

Narita Airport Operating Hours

Narita Airport operates from 6.00 AM till 11.00 PM, with a special allowance of one hour for landing after 11.00 PM for delays and bad weather. 

I am sure you are surprised as I am because it is an international airport, I had assumed it would operate 24 hours for flights landing from all over the world. 

The main reason for banning flights from 11.00 PM to 6.00 AM is due to the noise concerns of aircraft flying in and out around the town of Narita. 

Considerations have been made numerous times, as the countries international airport should be running 24 hours a day. 

Check-in Counters at Narita Airport
The wide check-in counter area of Terminal 2

Narita Airport Passenger Flow Convenience 

Built just like any other airport, the passenger flow is just perfect, and easy to navigate, even if it is your first time there. From the time you arrive via train, bus or taxi, the main entrance to the check-in counters are very near. 

For train arrivals to T2 of Narita, you will need to make your way up to level three, where the main departure hall is located, and there are clear and precise signs directing you all the way up. 

Terminal 2 Narita Airport
Signages are one of the most important things at airports

Honestly, I could not ask for easier directions as there was no need to look lost and confused here. This is something that the Japanese are very particular about - directions, and they are seen at eye-level anywhere you are in the terminal. 

Once you have checked in at the counter in Narita, your next move would be to do some last-minute shopping. 

After you are done eating and shopping, simply head back down and you will arrive at the main international departure entrance. It’s simple math, where you check-in, explore, indulge and go for your flight. 

Narita Airport Check-in Counters
Checking in at the Narita Airport

Checking-in At Narita Airport

Whenever I check-in at airports out of Kuala Lumpur, I always find the counter staff very helpful and always with a smile, and most importantly, professional in what they do. 

Well, on the many times I have flown AirAsia, the counter staff is some of the best around when it comes to checking in. I have heard of complaints but for me so far so good.

Over in Narita, nothing was compromised, as their professional customer service ethics paid in full, where I could not fault them in any way. 

Japan Muji to Go Shop
Shopping at Muji to Go at Narita Airport

Throughout my checking in, the counter staff maintained a pleasant face throughout, and even doing the traditional Japanese bowing after handing me my boarding pass. 

I guess this is something that will always impress me - the immaculate Japanese hospitality that has been around forever. 

I often wonder why this kind of hospitality cannot be emulated by other countries, namely in my own country airports. 

Airport Mall T2 Narita
Narita Airport Mall at Terminal 2

Shopping at the Airport Mall in Narita

When you stand in the middle of terminal two, at the main information counter, you can see everything in one glance, which is very convenient for foreign travellers. 

And for me, I saw that the shopping and dining were located on the upper level (Level 4) of the airport. 

This made it super easy for me to go up, explore, shop, and have a meal, before heading back down to the departure gates. 

Narita Airport Shopping Area
The simple and easy shopping area at terminal two

On the selection of shops here, I found it kind of interesting, probably due to a simplified layout, and also a special section where it was dedicated to purely Japanese arts and craft, which is something that appeals to most tourists before leaving Japan.

The concept of having smaller stores or kiosks meant that they only needed minimal manpower to manage and operate. 

Unlike KLIA2, there are many larger stores where two or more staff are seen employed. And when things are quiet, staff being staff, tend to talk to each other out of boredom, creating a very laid back and unprofessional image. 

7-11 at Narita Airport
How can one go wrong at any Japanese 7-11 store?

For dining or quick meals at Narita Airport, the concept of having fast food, convenient store and a proper restaurant in one area makes total sense. This means that if you have time, you can simply go straight to the restaurant for a solid sit down meal. 

And if you are on the go, you can either get some fast food or visit the convenient store to grab some bites and drinks. I never did really look deeper at the food and beverage layout, but seeing how the Japanese simplify it, made total sense. 

However, at KLIA2, it is convenient, with just too many choices. And the problem is that because there are too many, they are spaced out everywhere. This means at the main departures terminal, you have about ten restaurants and cafes there. 

Pharmacy Narita Airport
An example of a practical pharmacy at Narita Airport

And over at KL Gateway Mall, there are another 20 or so restaurants, cafes and fast food spread all over the mall. This kind of makes it difficult and quite a waste of time to walk around. 

If you look at the logistics of this, it actually doesn’t contribute much to the food and beverage retailers inside the airport boarding areas.

Why? Because passengers have spent time walking around the mall, leaving only just enough time to rush to the boarding gate. 

Not only that, the fact that some of the gates are located so far away, passengers will not have time to browse around the duty-free areas, leaving these shops with less business.

Honestly, how many times have you experienced rushing to your gate, only to bypass all the stores along the way? 

Boarding Gates Area Narita Airport
The shops along the boarding gate area of Narita

Boarding Gate Areas at Narita Airport

One more thing I love about international airports is the journey to the boarding gates area, and this is where you can spend all your last remaining foreign currencies. 

This means that most airports that I have visited, tend to have a nice and wide boarding area walkway.

The journey to the boarding gates is a breeze as you just need to follow the large numbered signs, which are all conveniently placed. 

Every corner you take, you will surely see signages that point you in the right direction. 

Narita Airport Duty Free Area
The duty-free shops along the way to your boarding gate

At the start, you will enter the duty-free zone, where stores line both sides of the walkways, which I found not too wide, and just nice for two-way traffic flow. 

Travelators or moving walkways are conveniently placed all the way to the end of the gates and are not too long. 

The stores seem to be found all the way to the gates, making the walk not tiring as the human eye would be glancing to see if there is something of interest along the walk. 

Along my journey to the boarding gate, I found all kinds of shops from souvenirs to apparel, and cafes to coffee shops, which are, of course, all high quality. 

Duty-free at Narita Airport
One of the attractive duty-free shops on route to the boarding area

They usually don’t cost an arm and a leg, hence the concept of this was for the passenger convenience to quickly shop and move along. 

Sadly at KLIA2 in Malaysia, they tried to adapt this concept, but the overall boarding gate area was built just too narrow. 

Meaning, when you get further, there are no more shops, as they are all concentrated at the beginning of the gate areas, with really low-quality stores, which I think makes the airport look really bad. 

Again, over at KLIA2, if you have already walked around the KL Gateway Mall, you would have limited time to explore inside the duty-free area. 

The only thing on your mind is to reach the boarding gate area, so you will not miss your flight. This is a common occurrence among many travellers at KLIA2. 

Walkway at KLIA2
Just take a look at the KLIA2 walkways. It feels very empty and cold

Final thoughts to Part 2 of my Narita Airport vs KLIA2 Review 

As mentioned earlier in this article, what I write here is my own views based on experience over the years of flying in and out of KLIA2. They are without bias and prejudice, and hopefully will be noticed by the respective authorities.

If you are interested in airports and aviation, I have also done many other airport articles and reviews from around Malaysia and also all over Asia.  

In the next and final part of this series, I will discuss in detail about Narita T3, which has been rated the World’s 2nd Best LCCT by Skytrax. If you have any comments or feedback, I would love to hear them below.

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Siti Fatimah said…
i am really impressed with their pharmacy. Too pack.