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Let’s discuss damage to Kansai airport

Staff Writer

This week’s featured article

ERIC JOHNSTON

As Kansai International Airport partially reopened on Sept. 7 with a few domestic flights after being flooded by a typhoon, the central government and the region were pushing forward with a proposal to temporarily route some international flights to Osaka’s Itami and Kobe airports.

A total of 19 flights — 17 passenger flights by low-cost carrier Peach Aviation, and two Japan Airlines cargo flights — took off and landed on the airport’s undamaged Runway B. They parked at the Terminal 2 building, which was also largely unscathed when Typhoon Jebi flooded the airport on Sept. 4.

But with no clear date set for a full reopening, there was grave concern in Kansai that foreign visitors would book flights to other parts of Japan. Local firms may also be forced to send their goods overseas on cargo flights departing from Tokyo or other cities, incurring additional expenses.

What worries Kansai’s manufacturers in particular is the past example of Kobe’s decline as a center for international cargo after a natural disaster affected the city.

During the 1970s, according to the transport ministry, Kobe was the world’s top-ranked container port in terms of annual volume. But in 1990 it had fallen to 5th place, then by 2005 — a decade after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake heavily damaged port areas — it had sunk further to 23rd. Later shifts to cheaper ports in other parts of Asia meant that by 2015 Kobe had fallen to 59th place.

At a news conference Friday, transport minister Keiichi Ishii said that Kansai airport’s Runway A would provisionally open around the middle of this month. He added that efforts were underway to expand operating hours at both Itami and Kobe airports.

However, Ishii also said that the ministry was discussing transferring international cargo flights to Narita and Chubu Centrair International Airport — a prospect that has Kansai-area firms concerned given the additional transportation costs to these airports.

How long that would take, and whether Kansai airport might be back in full or almost full operation by then, is unknown. On Sept. 7, Kansai Airports, the consortium which operates all three airports, would only say that discussions on the details of international flight operations at Kobe and Itami were underway.

First published in The Japan Times on Sept. 8.

Warm up

One-minute chat about flying.

Game

Collect words related to airports, e.g., trip, airplane, customs.

New words

1) unscathed: undamaged, e.g., “The building was unscathed.”

2) consortium: a group of people or organizations that agree to work together, e.g., “The firms are part of an international consortium.”

Guess the headline

As Kansai airport partially r_ _ _ _ _s, officials discuss temporarily routing some f_ _ _ _ _s elsewhere

Questions

1) What happened to Kansai International Airport?

2) When will it begin fully operating again?

3) What is the alternative for the time being?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What do you think about this issue?

2) When do you think the airport will recover?

3) What do you think we can learn from this?

Reference

台風の影響は空の便にとって脅威ですが、予想を超える被害が日本の一大玄関口に出てしまいました。少しずつ復旧が進んでいるとはいえ、先の見えない状況は旅行者にとっても関係者にとっても大きな心理的・経済的損失となることでしょう。一刻も早い復旧が望まれますが、また今後もこのような台風が発生する可能性があることも意識しておくべきなのかもしれません。いつ私たちの身に起こりえるかわからない天災に対して私たちは何ができるのでしょうか。朝の会に参加し皆さんで語り合ってみましょう。

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