• Bloomberg


The economy may suffer unless visiting executives including Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs can more easily jet in and out of the country by private aircraft, according to a business aviation group.

According to a Spa! magazine report this week citing unidentified airport officials, Jobs vowed never to return to Japan after he was forced to ditch ninja throwing stars found in his luggage on his way to boarding his private jet at Kansai International Airport.

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said the incidents described in the weekly magazine didn’t take place.

“Complaints from private jet passengers do happen fairly frequently,” Kazunobu Sato, vice chairman of the Japan Business Aviation Association, said in an interview Friday. “The strength of Japanese businesses will slowly decline if business jet use doesn’t increase.”

Kansai International, like almost all of Japan’s airports, lacks the separate facilities for private jets found at major hubs outside the country, according to the association. The gap may discourage global business leaders from coming to Japan because they have to share customs, security and baggage check facilities with commercial passengers.

“Japan is now in the earliest days of the private jet business,” said Toshiro Kariya, president of Tokyo-based business jet and travel operator Askme. “Japan has a lot of airports all over the country, though I must say, in terms of private aviation overall, it is an emerging country.”

Japan, the world’s third-largest aviation market, had 55 business jets last year compared with about 17,000 worldwide, according to the association. There will be about 11,000 business jets delivered through 2019, according to the latest forecasts from Honeywell International Inc., a maker of aircraft engines and components.

“More people don’t have business jets because they fear criticism from Japanese society,” Sato said. “It’s seen as a luxury.”

There were 648 business jet flights in and out of Haneda airport in Tokyo last year, according to figures from the association. The airport will double takeoff and landing slots for private jets to eight per day next month as it aims to boost accessibility for businesses.

The increase isn’t enough and the Tokyo area needs a private jet terminal and to combine customs, immigration and quarantine procedures for private jet passengers, Sato said.

“Global businesses are increasingly flying their executives around,” Sato said.

Singapore had more than 80 business jet flights a week in the first half of this year, according to an e-mail from the island’s airport operator.

Sato’s goal is to increase business jet flights at Haneda to about 3 percent of the total, compared with his forecast for 0.6 percent after the slots are expanded next month.

There are only three airports in Japan that have separate business jet facilities, two in the Nagoya area and one in Kobe, according to Sato.

Takeshi Uno, a spokesman at Kansai International, said a passenger using a private jet was stopped at the end of July for carrying ninja throwing stars and other hand-held blades. The passenger, whom Uno declined to identify because of the company’s privacy policy, threw away the blades, he said.

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