Kansai airport marks 10th anniversary amid woes

Kyodo

Kansai International Airport on Saturday marked its 10th anniversary amid severe business conditions, with international passenger traffic falling to a record low and its liabilities exceeding 1 trillion yen.

At a ceremony to celebrate the anniversary, Kansai International Airport Co. President Atsushi Murayama said, “Our goal is to make the airport convenient and customer-oriented.”

Passengers on domestic flights have largely shifted to the more conveniently located Osaka airport.

When it opened a decade ago on a man-made island in the sea off Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, Japan’s second-largest international gateway was intended to act as an Asian hub.

However, it has faced competition from rival airports in South Korea, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Kansai airport may lose out to new rivals in Japan as well, including Central Japan International Airport in Aichi Prefecture, scheduled to open in February and offer lower landing fees.

The number of passengers on international flights at Kansai fell to a record-low 8.54 million in 2003 due to such factors as the U.S.-led war on Iraq and the SARS epidemic, compared with its peak of 12.64 million in 2000.

The number of domestic passengers meanwhile dropped to 5.53 million in 2003 from 8 million shortly after the opening, with users preferring Osaka airport in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture.

The sluggish Osaka economy has also been a damper, observers say.