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New Naha Airport officially opens

By: Kotoko Chinen

Date Posted: 1999-05-29

It's taken a while, but the long-awaited new Naha Airport officially opened yesterday, ending 25 years of operations by the Naha Airport Terminal Company. Now under the auspices of the Naha Airport Building Company, the new terminal and facilities is nearly three times as wide as its predecessor and boasts of such amenities as 24 restaurants and 36 shops in the four-story terminal building.

On the first floor is the Arrival Lobby, consisting of two arrival gates and a baggage claim. Here visitors can find easy access to transportation, including car rentals, and get information about tours around the island. Restaurants, a post office and police station are also located on this floor. The Departure Lobby is on the second floor. Surrounded by a number of gift shops, there is also a Welcome Hall, suitable for small events. Many of the 36 gift shops are located here and a large variety of souvenirs are available for purchase. Before departure, passengers' check-in at the ticket lobby on the third floor. On both sides of the floor is the Observation Deck, where family and friends can watch planes jetting off to exotic locations or simply landing with friends, family or business colleagues, or just to give one last wave to loved ones. On the fourth floor, restaurants offer a variety of choices, including Italian, steak, Japanese, and Chinese specialties. Although cafeterias and restaurants are installed on every floor, the fourth floor offers an ideal place to sit back, have a meal and enjoy the view.

Money exchanges are available on the first floor, at the northern end of the terminal; two ATM machines are conveniently located near the entrances on the second floor.

Before the upgrade, the domestic terminal was a confusing mix of three terminals, each designated with particular airlines, which meant passengers often needed to jump on buses to transit from one building to another. Passengers often cited the necessity to travel from one terminal to another as one of the most frustrating inconveniences.

Making the most of the available 77,713 square meters and the new four-story structure, the integration of the two domestic terminals and the separation of the arrival and departure lobbies was made and it is now much easier for passengers to access all airlines. Moreover, the facilities are designed to make life easier for locals and visitors alike. New features such as the use of texture paving blocks, a nursery, elevator and bathrooms for the underprivileged, means a user-friendlier airport than the old one.

Yet, despite the latest technology and facilities, the airport has maintained a distinctly Okinawan feel and flavor. Objets d'art in the terminal are uniquely Okinawan and should be warmly welcomed by visitors. The colorful arrays of flowers add beautiful hues and a warm touch to the airport. And who can forget the magnificence of an Okinawan sunset, which will be readily available at dusk on any given day to all those who touch down at Naha.

The airport expects 13 million passengers a year. In order to deal with expected increases, a monorail will be constructed and in operation by 2003 to transport passengers to and from the city center. For more information, call 840-1179.

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