Osaka Kansai vs Itami – Which Airport Is Better For Passengers?

It’s no secret that some of the largest cities in the world have more than one airport serving their population. This applies to the major Japanese city of Osaka, which is served by the airports of Kansai (KIX) and Itami (ITM). So which airport is better for passengers? Let’s look at the two and compare what they have to offer.

Itami airport
Itami Airport is mainly served by ANA (All Nippon Airways) and JAL (Japan Airlines). Photo: Hideyuki Kamon via Flickr 

Where Kansai and Itami Airports are located

Kansai airport is located 45km south of the city of Osaka, situated on a manmade island, purpose-built for the airport. Itami airport is much closer to the city center, just 20km north.

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If traveling by private vehicle, it will likely take just under half an hour to get to Itami from Osaka’s city center, whereas it might take twice the time to get to Kansai airport. Alternately, when taking public transit, Kansai is well connected and can be accessed with one train that takes just over 50 minutes. Itami airport is served by a limousine bus that takes 40 minutes. A combination of three different trains will also get you to the airport.

Kansai area airports
The location of Kansai and Itami airports in relation to Osaka. Kansai is located south on a manmade island while Itami is just north and quite close to the city center. Kobe Airport (in blue) is also nearby. Photo: Google Maps

If we are looking at the distance from Osaka’s city center alone, then Itami would be the winning airport. In fact, if you’re coming from Kyoto and looking to fly, then the airport is even better! However, the destinations that this airport offers leaves much to be desired…

Destinations

While Itami somehow secured the name ‘Osaka International Airport,’ the airport currently only takes travelers to domestic destinations around Japan. Tokyo Haneda, Sapporo’s New Chitose, Sendai, and Fukuoka, are just some of the destinations that can be reached through Itami airport. JAL and ANA are the main carriers flying out of Itami. Ibex has a few services as well.

Itami airport
Itami Airport is a much smaller airport than Kansai. Photo: Sekicho via Wikimedia Commons 

On the other hand, Kansai International Airport offers far more destinations for travelers as it is served by some of the world’s biggest airlines. From Sydney (Australia) to Amsterdam (Netherlands) to Los Angeles (United States), and many, many more destinations in between, Kansai is a true gateway to the world.

Amenities

According to the airport’s website, Itami actually has an impressive array of shops and restaurants. The airport offers numerous options for fine dining and fast food. There’s even a convenience store.

Itami also has a free observation deck as well as a very basic pay-per-use lounge.

osaka kansai
Kansai has an impressive observation deck facility to spot big jets taking off and landing. Photo: Kanchi1979 via Wikimedia Commons 

Kansai Airport has many of the same shops and services as Itami, but on a much larger scale. The airport’s SkyView Observation Hall is an extremely impressive facility which planespotters would love.

Kansai Airport has far more lounges to match its international scale and diversity. Korean Air, Thai Airways, ANA, and JAL all have exclusive lounges at Kansai.

So which airport is better for passengers?

The answer is relatively straightforward and is primarily dictated by the type of trip you are making. If you are flying domestic, then Itami is the way to go – especially if you’re coming from or heading to Kyoto. The airport’s location is probably its best asset.

On the other hand, if you are flying internationally, then Kansai will be your only option in the area. However, despite its long distance from Osaka (and Kyoto, and Kobe), Japan’s extensive rail network will get you where you need to go. It might just take a little longer.

Have you been to these two airports before? Share your experience with us in the comments.

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