Kansai airport not living up to Asia hub goal: airline poll

Kyodo

Kansai International Airport is failing to act as a hub for Asia, its goal when opening a decade ago, a Kyodo News survey found.

The results of a poll of 37 passenger and two cargo carriers using the airport show none of them sees Kansai as an Asian hub. In a similar survey conducted five years ago, seven airlines viewed Kansai as an Asian hub.

Kansai may be losing out on the Asian hub position to South Korea’s Incheon airport and Shanghai airport, as well as to Narita, due to higher landing charges and inconvenient flight connections.

Of the 39 Japanese and foreign carriers covered in the latest poll, 28 said they do not consider Kansai an Asian hub. Nine said they were uncertain about its position and two gave no answer.

Asked for their reasons, six of the 28 carriers said connections at Kansai are inconvenient. Five said Incheon and Shanghai offer lower landing fees. Other reasons include limited demand at Kansai and the presence of Narita as an Asian hub.

Landing charges at Kansai are viewed as “considerably expensive” by 24 carriers, as “expensive” by 13 and as “reasonable” by two.

Asked if they would increase flights to Kansai upon the completion of the second runway, 12 carriers answered “no.” Twenty-five airlines were undecided. Only one said “yes.”

The poll also indicates airlines’ growing expectations for Central Japan International Airport, scheduled to open in the Chubu region near Nagoya in February.

Of the 39 airlines, 13 see the new Chubu airport as more attractive than Kansai because of lower landing fees and more convenient flight connections, while nine favor Kansai. Eleven see no difference.

Eighteen carriers have plans to use Chubu airport, including two that indicated cuts in flights to Kansai. Sixteen have no such plans and five are undecided.

Transit service boost

The government plans to expand services for foreign transit passengers at airports as part of a campaign to attract more visitors to Japan.

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry has earmarked 1 billion yen in its fiscal 2005 budget request for the pilot program as part of the government’s “Visit Japan” campaign, whish is aimed at doubling the number of foreign visitors by 2010 from 5 million a year at present, ministry officials said Thursday.

Under the plan in the year starting next April, the ministry will cooperate with local governments and tourist associations in working out programs to entertain foreigners who stay for several hours at Japanese airports while on their way to overseas destinations, they said.

Some 6.8 million foreign transit passengers stop over annually at Japan’s international airports, including Narita and Kansai, the officials said.

The program would allow transit passengers to take short sightseeing tours, see festivals and other regional events, and receive regional tourism information.

The program is modeled after a Singapore system that allows transit passengers to join free two-hour bus tours without immigration procedures.