National

Kansai airport bounces back from typhoon but Kobe, Itami likely to help out anyway

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Less than three weeks after a devastating typhoon flooded its main runway and terminal building — and damaged the only bridge connecting it to the mainland — Kansai International Airport resumed full operations on Friday.

Airport officials said Thursday night that 99 percent of pre-typhoon passenger flights would be ready to go Friday, including 169 international and 64 domestic flights. As of Friday morning, a total of 54 airlines were offering international flights to and from the airport in Osaka Prefecture.

A few stores and restaurants in Terminal 1, which was hit by Typhoon Jebi’s storm surge, remained closed. But the international departures and arrivals sections were busy, and most passenger services, including currency-exchange booths, convenience stores and souvenir shops, were doing business.

Passengers were happy that the main international gateway to western Japan was all but back to normal, and much quicker than was thought possible just a couple of weeks ago.

“It was a lot easier to get here than I thought. Trains from Osaka aren’t that crowded and it looks as if my flight isn’t delayed, so that’s a relief,” said Miwa Taniguchi, 27, who was departing for Seoul in the afternoon.

“The airline said Kansai airport was back to normal, so we weren’t worried. As long as no typhoons hit us on the day we’re due to go home, our return flight shouldn’t be a problem either,” said David Cheung, who arrived in the afternoon from Hong Kong on a business trip.

Concerned about how quickly the airport will return to its pre-typhoon traffic, the transport ministry launched a PR campaign in cooperation with the airport to get people visit to Kansai, especially South Koreans and Chinese. Before Typhoon Jebi passed through western Japan on Sept. 4, about 80,000 passengers a day used the airport.

Japan Airlines announced Friday that it would offer a maximum 30 percent discount on tickets from Kansai airport to Shanghai, Taipei, Bangkok and Los Angeles beginning Oct. 1. JAL also said it plans to operate a temporary international flight from Osaka’s Itami airport to Hong Kong next month. The flight from Hong Kong is expected to arrive at Itami airport on the morning of Oct. 17. Another flight will depart Itami for Hong Kong on Oct. 21.

Despite the fact that Kansai airport is now back to normal, plans are still in motion to have nearby Kobe and Itami airports assume some of Kansai airport’s international flights. The damage done by Typhoon Jebi has officials and businesses worried that the region’s only international hub is vulnerable to natural disasters, and they are enlisting Kobe and Itami airports to help out as a backup measure.