Travelers using nation’s airports fell 3.7% in 2011 after disasters struck

Kyodo

The number of travelers at domestic airports in fiscal 2011 dropped 3.7 percent year on year to 220.25 million, the lowest level seen in the past decade, as the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear calamities scared away passengers, government data showed.

By category, passengers on international routes slipped 4.2 percent, while those on domestic flights shrank 3.5 percent, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry said Thursday in a preliminary report.

The number of travelers who passed through 97 airports across the nation was also affected by the extension of shinkansen lines in northeastern and southwestern Japan that siphoned off customers, the ministry said.

A ministry official said the figure is likely to rise in the current fiscal year through March 31, due in part to the establishment of new routes by low-cost carriers at various domestic airports.

Among the three northeastern prefectures that bore the full brunt of the natural and nuclear disasters in March 2011, the number of travelers using Miyagi Prefecture’s Sendai airport plunged 29.6 percent after the facility had to be closed for about a month after the tsunami submerged its runway. Fukushima airport saw its passenger volume plummet some 26.4 percent on account of the triple meltdown crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

But the number of travelers who used Hanamaki Airport in Iwate Prefecture spiked 19.9 percent, thanks to a new service with Tokyo’s Haneda airport.