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Locally funded airports in deep financial trouble

Date Posted: 2009-04-02

Ishigaki and Shimojijima Airports are the exceptions to the profitability rule in Okinawa, the only two of 12 that are not mired in financial messes.

Aircraft landing fees have dropped significantly, leaving most of the local government operated airports in Okinawa struggling to avoid drowning in a sea of red ink. Already a problem in 2007, the worldwide recession has exacerbated the situation this year, plunging airports deeper in debt. The spiral is likely to get worse as airlines, also concerned about large decreases in the number of tourists and other travelers, seek to cut the number of flights into local airports.

Yonaguni’s airport is in the worst shape, ¥76.797 million in the red, with Kume Island Airport losing ¥80.912 million. Minami Daito Island is ¥39.781 million in debt, Miyakojima Airport ¥37.327 million in the red, and Tarama Airport minus ¥32.744 million. Kita Daito Airport has deficits of ¥27.709 million, Aguni Airport minus ¥23.280 million and Kerama Airport a negative ¥16.835 million. Hateruma Airport is a negative ¥19.628 million, while Ie Island is listing a deficit of ¥5.209 million.

Ishigaki Airport is showing a surplus of ¥47.671 million, and Shimojijima Airport, which is a training airport for pilots, a surplus of ¥16.651 million. There are 58 locally owned and operated airports in Japan.

Naha International Airport is not locally funded and operated, as the Prefecture provides organization and funding. In fact, only last week the Okinawa Prefecture Office, the government’s General Bureau Office and the Osaka Aviation Bureau adopted plans to build a second runway at Naha International Airport. The new runway will be 2,700 meters long, extending 1,310 meters offshore. The project is to begin in 2010.

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