• Kyodo

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When Atsushi Murayama took over as president of Kansai International Airport Co. on Wednesday, he immediately stressed the importance of listening to customers’ opinions.

“Customers are not happy with the current situation of Kansai airport,” Murayama said. “I hope to turn the company into a firm that will swiftly respond to changes and adhere to the views of customers.”

Murayama, also vice president of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., is the first person from the private sector to take the helm of the operator of the troubled airport in Osaka Bay. He will resign from Matsushita Electric on Friday.

Murayama, 65, said he will take over a business improvement program that was compiled in March and intended to restructure the semigovernmental airport operator.

He said he will announce detailed measures in three months.

“Facilities to make people say ‘Let’s visit Kansai airport’ to shop or on dates would also be good” ways to boost profits, he said. “I hope to think about a wide range of options.”

The operator cannot carry the burden of covering maintenance of the artificial island in Osaka Bay where the airport is located, he said.

“I want the conditions for competition with other airports to be the same,” he said.

Referring to a second runway currently under construction, Murayama said: “We will aim to start using it in 2007 as scheduled. We cannot repay the debts unless we expand our size. There are international airports that prosper for the first time only with four or five” runways.

Murayama succeeded Kiyoyasu Mikanagi, a former transport ministry official, as president, while Hajime Miyamoto, 71, chairman of electrical engineering company Kinden Corp., became chairman.

The personnel changes were made official following Wednesday’s shareholders’ meeting and board meeting of the airport operator.

Since its foundation in 1984, Kansai International Airport has been headed by former transport ministry officials. The central government holds a majority of shares in the airport operator.

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