The central government said Wednesday it has reached a basic agreement with the United States on the use of new routes for commercial flights in the U.S. military-controlled airspace over part of Tokyo and its surrounding areas.
With the agreement, annual arrival and departure slots for international flights at Haneda airport are expected to expand from the current 60,000 to 99,000 before the capital hosts the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
“To achieve a government target of attracting 40 million foreign travelers to Japan in 2020, it is indispensable to enhance the function of Haneda airport,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kotaro Nogami told a news conference.
The airspace, just west of the airport, has been managed by U.S. forces since the beginning of the postwar period.
The flight restrictions have forced numerous commercial flights in and out of the airport to detour or fly at certain altitudes to avoid it, causing air traffic congestion.
The tiered airspace, currently controlled by the U.S. military headquartered at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo, has different levels at altitudes between about 2,400 and 7,000 meters and stretches over Tokyo and eight other prefectures.
Under the deal, Japan will control the new routes that will go through part of the airspace. But since the routes will be set over central Tokyo areas, some residents are concerned about excessive noise and potential safety risks.