Compared with air transport, the Shinkansen has several advantages, including scheduling frequency and flexibility, punctual operation, comfortable seats, and convenient city-centre terminals.
Shinkansen fares are generally competitive with domestic air fares. From a speed and convenience perspective, the Shinkansen’s market share has surpassed that of air travel for journeys of less than 750 km, while air and rail remain highly competitive with each other in the 800–900 km range and air has a higher market share for journeys of more than 1,000 km.
- Tokyo – Nagoya (342 km), Tokyo – Sendai (325 km), Tokyo – Hanamaki (Morioka) (496 km), Tokyo – Niigata (300 km): There were air services between these cities, but they were withdrawn after Shinkansen services started. Shinkansen runs between these cities in about two hours or less.
- Tokyo – Osaka (515 km): Shinkansen is dominant because of fast (2 hours 22 minutes) and frequent service (up to every 10 minutes by Nozomi); however, air travel has a certain share (~20–30%).
- Tokyo – Okayama (676 km), Tokyo – Hiroshima (821 km): Shinkansen is reported to have increased its market share from ~40% to ~60% over the last decade. The Shinkansen takes about three to four hours and there are Nozomi trains every 30 minutes, but airlines may provide cheaper fares, attracting price-conscious passengers.
- Tokyo – Fukuoka (1,069 km): The Shinkansen takes about five hours on the fastest Nozomi, and discount carriers have made air travel far cheaper, so most people choose air. Additionally, unlike many cities, there is very little convenience advantage for the location of the Shinkansen stations of the two cities as Fukuoka Airport is located near the central Tenjin district, and Fukuoka City Subway Line 1 connects the Airport and Tenjin via Hakata Station and Haneda Airport is similarly conveniently located.
- Osaka – Fukuoka (554 km): One of the most competitive sections. The Shinkansen takes about two and a half hours by Nozomi or Mizuho, and the JR West Hikari Rail Star or JR West/JR Kyushu Sakura trains operate twice an hour, taking about 2 hours and 40 minutes between the two cities. Again the location of the airports involved helps with the popularity of air travel.
- Tokyo – Aomori (675 km): The fastest Shinkansen service between these cities is 3 hours. JAL is reported to have reduced the size of planes servicing this route since the Shinkansen extension opened in 2010.
- Tokyo – Hokuriku (345 km): The fastest Shinkansen service between these cities is 2½ hours. ANA is reported to have reduced the number of services from Tokyo to Kanazawa and Toyama from 6 to 4 per day since the Shinkansen extension opened in 2015. The share of passengers travelling this route by air is reported to have dropped from 40% to 10% in the same period.