Iwakuni fetes first civilian airline flights in 48 years

Kyodo, JIJI

A new military-civilian airport in the city of Iwakuni opened Thursday with an All Nippon Airways Co. flight to Haneda airport in Tokyo, marking the first commercial flight from the area in 48 years.

Iwakuni Kintaikyo Airport in Yamaguchi Prefecture is the 98th airport in Japan and cost ¥1.32 billion to build. Named after a well-known bridge in Iwakuni, the airport shares a runway with U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, making it the second to be run jointly with a U.S. military facility, after Misawa airport, which uses part of Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture.

The passenger terminal is on the north side of the base, and ANA is offering four daily round-trip flights from Iwakuni to Haneda in hopes of drawing 400,000 passengers a year.

Thursday’s flight ended a 48-year hiatus in commercial flights from the base that began in 1952 and halted in 1964.

The airport project began in 2000, when Yamaguchi Prefecture began asking the government for permission to share the base for commercial flights. The Japan-U.S. Joint Committee agreed on the proposal in October 2005 and the Japanese government approved it in February 2009.

ANA eyes United perk


All Nippon Airways Co., the nation’s largest carrier, expects to more than double the sales boost it expects from a tieup with United Continental Holdings Inc. this fiscal year as new services and improved connections lure business fliers.

The Asia-Americas flights venture will “conservatively” generate ¥4 billion ($48 million) in extra revenue for ANA in the year ending in March, Executive Vice President Keisuke Okada said this week in Tokyo. That compares with ¥1.6 billion the preceding year, the partnership’s first full year.

ANA also anticipates a ¥1.5 billion sales boost this fiscal year from collaboration on European routes with Deutsche Lufthansa AG, as the Tokyo-based carrier uses cooperation to help cut costs and offer passengers a wider range of flights. The tieups let the airlines coordinate schedules and cross-sell tickets, as well as share revenue and costs.

“We had problems expanding our corporate sales overseas before the ventures,” Okada said. “Now, with the help of United and Lufthansa, our sales extend around the world.”

ANA’s venture with United covers 26 routes, including flights from Japan to Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and the United States. The carrier’s planned Tokyo-San Jose service and United’s pending Denver-Tokyo route will be added next year, Okada said.

ANA’s connecting passengers from United flights rose 40 percent in the six months that ended in September from a year earlier, Okada said. The airlines formed the venture, which has antitrust immunity, following the 2010 signing of an open-skies agreement between the U.S. and Japan.

ANA’s passenger traffic on both North American and European routes rose 14 percent from a year earlier in October. That helped offset a slump in Asian travel mainly caused by a territorial dispute with China. Total international traffic rose 5.8 percent.