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Naha Airport ranks 5th in passenger numbers

Date Posted: 2012-02-03

With more than 14 million passengers utilizing Naha Airport, the growth is enough to place the island’s airport 5th in Japan’s 90 airports.

Okinawa’s Naha Airport has seen passenger traffic rise to 14,225,909, surpassing Kansai International Airport in Osaka and then Osaka International Airport Itami. The top four airports in Japan are Haneda, Narita, Chitose and Fukuoka.

The president of Okinawa International University explains that “moving up the list was very pleasing,” but Moritake Tomikawa notes that “in order to become a hub airport in Asia, much needs to be done to improve the airport.”

Tomikawa says “the existing approach is insufficient to increasing demand in the future,” adding that “we need to expand the Naha Airport as soon as we can.” Naha Airport is shared with the Japan Self-Defense Forces, generating issues such as overcrowding on runways, while the congested international terminal building creates many passenger complaints.

New foreign airlines wanting to operate from Okinawa, together with low-cost budget carriers and tour operators, are projected to double the number of international flights flying into Okinawa over the coming year or two, leading tourism industry officials to demand prompt changes in the airport.

The central government has already indicated it will expand runways at the airport, but has not set a date for construction to start. Naha Airport Building Company says it plans to add a new four-story international terminal building above ground, a move that would increase the international operations by an extra 20,000 square meters of floor space. Tourism officials say that’s still not enough, calling the NABCO plan “insufficient” for the airport to compete with other Asian tourist destinations.

Officials cite a December 19th incident where a Japan Self Defense Force F-15 fighter ventured off the runway, forcing a temporary airport closure that inconvenienced tourists for hours. That same day, Shigenobu Asato, President of the Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau, held an emergency meeting, declaring “this airport is too crowded. When it is decided to expand the runways, we need to discuss the way Naha Airport is used for joint military-civilian purposes.”

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