As confusion continued Thursday over a massive shortage of World Cup tickets for Japan matches, 319 soccer fans left Narita airport for Paris aboard a special Japan Airlines flight.

“Although we heard that many might cancel their trips, the number of passengers was beyond what we had anticipated,” a JAL spokesman said. The flight was fully booked.

Neither JAL nor All Nippon Airlines plan to cancel their extra flights at the moment, airline officials said. ANA’s first extra flight leaves for Paris today. Harlequin Air Corp., an affiliate of Japan Air System Co., is also sending its first World Cup charter flight from Sendai to Toulouse via Tokyo and Helsinki today.

The snafu over a massive ticket shortage has left thousands of fans at a loss and several travel agencies in a jam.

One agency, Hankyu Express International Co., sent 188 of its World Cup tour guests to France on Thursday, even though only about 70 tickets have been secured so far. The agency says it will fully refund the tour money if the participants cannot attend Japan’s first game against Argentina on Sunday.

“We could not cancel Thursday’s tours in time. For participants without tickets, we will make our best efforts to get them into France,” a Hankyu Express spokesman said. Hankyu has canceled tours that were scheduled to leave today and Saturday, affecting some 400 people. It said it will pay customers an additional 15 percent on top of their tour money as a token of apology for the trouble.

The problems started after Japanese travel agencies realized that most of the tickets they had reserved for Sunday’s Japan-Argentina game in Toulouse, 250 km from Paris, might not arrive in time. Of the 14,736 tickets ordered by the country’s 13 major travel agencies for that match, only 4,187 have been received, according to the Japan Association of Travel Agents.

JATA has sent a complaint letter to French Organizing Committee France 98 under the name of its chairman, Isao Matsuhashi. “We … have no choice but to make our strongest protest for our suffering to the French Organizing Committee France 98 who, we believe, should have control over and is totally responsible for the distribution and delivery of tickets to the relevant games,” Matsuhashi said in the written statement.

Tickets for World Cup games are sold directly by 17 official agents of the French Organizing Committee or secondary outlets of these official agents. Ticket issuing was delayed at one point after bogus tickets were found in April, according to JATA.

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