KAGOSHIMA – The Kagoshima Prefectural Assembly has approved a ¥34 million plan to send 300 local government employees, teachers and citizens on trips to Shanghai to help maintain a struggling air route served by a Chinese airline.
The “training program” appropriations drew sharp criticism from local residents and assembly members, who called it a waste of taxpayers’ money and said it would only temporarily boost passenger volume on the route between Kagoshima airport and Shanghai.
On Friday morning, Gov. Yuichiro Ito retracted an initial draft budget of ¥118 million to dispatch 1,000 people on four-day trips to “inspect” local government agencies and Japanese schools in China. Ito resubmitted a scaled-down version for 300 people and it was approved by the assembly the same day.
“We reviewed it based on views submitted by the assembly. It is an emergency measure to keep the route afloat,” Ito told an assembly meeting on the resubmitted budget.
He also said the program might be extended, depending on how traffic fares on the route.
China Eastern Airlines runs two weekly flights from Kagoshima to Shanghai, but demand has fallen due to strained bilateral ties over the Senkakus territorial dispute and the bird flu outbreak in China.
Starting July 10, 300 travelers, divided equally between local government employees, teachers and citizens, are expected to jet off on the three-night trips through September.