• Kyodo

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Narita International Airport will extend the operational hours of one of its runways from October as part of efforts to boost the services that can be offered via the major international gateway, officials said Monday.

The extension of the hours for landings and takeoffs, the first such move since the airport’s opening in 1978, was finalized after the last town that had opposed the proposal eventually accepted the plan.

The current hours for incoming and outgoing flights — basically from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. — will be prolonged to midnight on the main runway as Tokyo hosts the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.

With approvals by the town of Yokoshibahikari and the city of Sammu in Chiba Prefecture, all nine surrounding municipalities have agreed with the extension now scheduled to begin late October.

“It is inevitable,” Haruhiko Sato, mayor of Yokoshibahikari, told reporters. “I will try to explain things to residents in the town.”

The town and the city said in December they were opposed to the extension, citing concerns such as noise. But the operator of the airport later promised it would shoulder part of the necessary costs for noise reduction measures.

The nine municipalities, the infrastructure ministry and Narita International Airport Corp. will soon formally sign an agreement on the extension of hours for the 4,000-meter runway, according to the officials.

Sammu Mayor Hiroaki Matsushita, who spoke to the media after discussing the issue with assembly members on Friday, said it was a “wrenching decision.”

The airport, which is situated inland, plans to build a third runway in the 2020s.

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