羽田空港 ハブ化推進は当然の選択だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Oct. 14, 2009)
Haneda natural choice as hub airport
羽田空港 ハブ化推進は当然の選択だ(10月14日付・読売社説)

Will Japan's air gateway return from Narita to Haneda Airport?

Construction and Transport Minister Seiji Maehara said his top priority is turning Haneda Airport into a hub for international flights that can operate on a 24-hour basis.

Haneda Airport is scheduled to open its fourth runway in October 2010. Maehara said the practice of routing most international flights bound for Tokyo to Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture and most domestic flights to Haneda Airport would be eliminated with the opening of the fourth runway at Haneda and that there would be a sharp increase in the number of international flights to and from Haneda Airport.

It is difficult to increase the departure and arrival slots at Narita Airport by a significant number due to the many operational restrictions at the facility. Turning Haneda Airport, which is in the Tokyo metropolitan area, into a hub for international flights is quite a natural choice from the perspective of convenience. The government should proceed with discussions for the realization of the proposal.

The advantage of a hub airport is that international and domestic flights converge there and connecting flights for passengers and air freight are available in a single location.


International competition

South Korea, China and other Asian countries have developed as a national project an airport with multiple runways that can operate on a 24-hour basis to attract visitors and goods from abroad.

Although construction work to extend the second runway at Narita Airport will soon be completed, there will be little increase in the departure and arrival slots. The airport's weaknesses are that it is far from the Tokyo metropolitan area and cannot operate early in the morning and late at night due to noise prevention measures.

If Japan sticks to the principle of separating domestic and international services between the airports, the nation could be removed from the Asian aviation network. If most of increase in the departure and arrival slots at Haneda Airport is assigned to international flights, the airport would be able to function well as a hub airport.

However, Narita Airport opened despite fierce opposition to its construction. Many flights to and from Haneda Airport, which will be increased, will fly over Chiba Prefecture. It is necessary to give due consideration to noise prevention and gain the consent of the Chiba prefectural and Narita municipal governments.


Narita still necessary

Maehara said Narita Airport will continue to be used as an international airport. Just opening Haneda Airport to international traffic will not be sufficient to meet the increasing demand for international flights.

There are many overseas airlines that seek an extension of services into Narita and Haneda airports. The improvement of Narita Airport should also be steadily promoted.

The influence of turning Haneda Airport into a hub for international flights will not be limited to airports in the Tokyo area. The impact on Kansai Airport, where the number of passengers has been decreasing, will be severe.

The management of Kansai Airport is struggling under the weight of more than 1 trillion yen in interest-bearing debts. Furthermore, Japan Airlines is considering sharply decreasing its number of flights to and from the airport. The central and related local governments must take drastic reconstruction measures, such as assuming responsibility for repaying debts from the airport company.

But if there is no change in the situation in which Itami Airport and Kobe Airport are competing for passengers, the revitalization of Kansai Airport will be difficult even with a decreased debt load.

A review of aviation administration in the Kansai region, with an eye to the possible shutting down or a drastic downsizing of Itami Airport, is a basic premise for the support measures.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 14, 2009)
(2009年10月14日00時14分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-10-14 12:40 | 英字新聞

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