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Business jets are gaining traction in Japan as companies look to keep their workers off commercial planes to avoid infection risks amid the novel coronavirus.

Companies that arrange charter flights are getting a growing number of inquiries, with one flight operator planning to increase its fleet size.

Business jets, often used by wealthy people for leisure travel, usually have seats for 10 to 20 passengers and flights can be adapted to an individuals’ schedule.

The number of business jets registered in Japan as of the end of 2019 stood at only 61, compared with 20,978 in the United States, 726 in Germany and 497 in China. The number of takeoffs and landings in Japan was already on the increase prior to the pandemic, however, totaling 17,546 in 2019.

Demand for business jets appears to be growing due to the health crisis.

“We’ve been receiving an increasing number of inquiries from businesses seeking a means of transportation that can reduce infection risks,” said Ryosei Nomura, head of the planning department at ANA Business Jet Inc.

Fuji Business Jet Co., based in Makinohara, Shizuoka Prefecture, plans to add another six-seat jet to its current fleet of two. It is also preparing to start operating a 10-seat jet.

The Policy Research Institute for Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism started research in fiscal 2019 to calculate the economic benefits of business jet operations. It is studying how much tourism consumption has been boosted by business jets and whether their operations have created new jobs. It plans to compile a report by the end of fiscal 2020.

Many flights have used airports in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The institute hopes that the research will encourage more local airports to host such flights and stimulate the underdeveloped domestic market.

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