South Korea’s Jeju airline ditches Fukushima Airport due to radiation fears

JIJI, Kyodo

South Korean low-cost carrier Jeju Air has decided not to use Fukushima Airport for planned chartered flights between South Korea and northeastern Japan due to crew fears of radiation, officials have said.

The carrier will switch to Sendai International Airport in Miyagi Prefecture to operate the flights between Incheon International Airport and northeastern Japan from March, they said on Tuesday.

Jeju Air had planned a flight from Fukushima to Incheon airport on March 18 with a return flight on March 20.

However, it is understood some of the airline’s staff expressed health concerns over flights to and from the airport in Fukushima Prefecture, where Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is located.

In a written message to staff, Chief Executive Officer Choi Kyu-nam said there was technically no safety problems associated with Fukushima Airport. But the carrier said it will still cancel its chartered service to allay fears from employees and their families.

Jeju Air will instead use Sendai International Airport to provide Fukushima Prefecture residents with flight access to South Korea, Choi said.

The company’s planned use of Fukushima Airport drew criticism from a South Korean labor organization.

Fears of radiation are still strong in South Korea. The nation has an ongoing ban on imports of all marine products from eight prefectures in Japan, including Fukushima.

Some Jeju Air customers in South Korea reportedly posted online that they wouldn’t use the airline in the future because they didn’t want to “board airplanes that flew over Fukushima.”

H.I.S. Co., which is planning tours using the flights, received a request from Jeju Air to change the route, according to officials of the Japanese firm.

But the travel agency said it hoped that the airline would stick to its original plan and use Fukushima Airport.