Use airport slots or lose them, ministry says

The Transport Ministry will confiscate landing and takeoff slots from airlines that have a high percentage of flight cancellations at Narita airport and redistribute them to other carriers starting in 1998, ministry officials said Mar. 19.

The ministry will start checking this fall whether already distributed slots are fully in use, and plans to set guidelines for their redistribution. The ministry’s decision came after the European Union complained to Japan about limited landing and takeoff slots at the international airport. U.S. carriers have about four times as many slots as European carriers at Narita.

The number of landing and takeoff slots at Narita, which only has one runway, has been severely restricted and the airport has been unable to distribute new slots since the summer of 1991. Landing and takeoff slots at Kansai International Airport, which opened in 1995, are also scarce because the airport is approaching full operational capacity, the officials said.

Currently, 360 landing and takeoff slots per day are available at Narita. But because carriers cancel some scheduled flights, especially cargo flights, the total number of slots actually in use is estimated at about 340.