Narita is the busiest airport in Japan by international passenger and international cargo traffic. Opened in 1978, Narita is the predominant international airport in Japan, handling around 50% of the country's international passenger traffic and 60% of its international air cargo traffic.
In 2018, Narita had 33.4 million international passengers and 2.2 million tonnes of international cargo. In 2018, Narita was also the second-busiest airport in Japan in terms of aircraft movements (after Haneda Airport in Tokyo) and the tenth-busiest air freight hub in the world. Its 4,000-meter (13,123 ft) main runway shares the record for longest runway in Japan with the second runway at Kansai International Airport in Osaka.
The runway was completed and the airport scheduled to open on March 30, 1978, but this plan was disrupted when, on March 26, 1978, a group of protestors broke into the control tower and destroyed much of its equipment, causing about $500,000 in damage and delaying the opening until May 20. The conflicts at Narita were a major factor in the decision to build Kansai International Airport in Osaka offshore on reclaimed land, instead of again trying to expropriate land in heavily populated areas.
Japan's international flag carrier, Japan Airlines moved its main international hub from Haneda to Narita, and Northwest and Pan American also moved their Asian regional hubs from Haneda to Narita. Pan American transferred its Pacific Division, including its Narita hub, to United Airlines in February 1986. Japanese domestic carrier All Nippon Airways began scheduled international flights from Narita to Guam in 1986.
At Narita, air traffic movements have been controlled under various noise related operating restrictions. As a result, the airport must be closed from 00:00 (12:00am) to 06:00 (6:00am) the next day to minimize noise impact around the airport.