Naha Airport ranks 5th in the country in terms of annual passenger numbers

December 21, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo

In the 2010 fiscal year the number of annual passengers on civilian aircraft using Naha Airport was calculated to be 14225909, putting it in the top five of the approximately 90 airports in the country. While the airport ranked seventh in the 2008 fiscal year, it edged out Kansai International Airport in the 2009 fiscal year and Osaka International Airport (Itami) in the 2010 fiscal year. The top four were Haneda, Narita, New Chitose and Fukuoka.

Regarding coming fifth, Moritake Tomikawa, the president of Okinawa International University said that from the point of view of tourism “moving up the list was very pleasing.” But at the same time, he pointed out the problem of the overcrowding at Naha Airport, saying that, “In order to become a hub airport in Asia much needs to be done to improve the airport. The existing approach is insufficient to increasing demand into the future. We need to expand the airport as soon as we can.”

Because Naha Airport is shared with the Japan Self-Defence Forces, there are many issues such as overcrowding on runways and a congested international terminal building. Furthermore, new foreign airline companies and low-cost carriers will commence flights to Okinawa the year after next, and so tourism industry officials have been advocating the necessity of promptly improving the airport facilities.

The government plans to expand the runways of Naha Airport, but the date to start construction is yet to be determined. By the end of 2013 fiscal year, the Naha Airport Building (NABCO) intends to add an international building with four stories above ground, which represents an extra 20000 square meters of floor space. But even so, a tourism industry official suggests that the current NABCO plan is insufficient for the airport to compete with other Asian tourist spots.

On December 19, a F-15 fighter of JSDF deviated from the runway. The airport closed temporarily as a result to deal with the accident and many tourists were inconvenienced. On the same day, President of the Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau Shigenobu Asato held an emergency meeting and said, “The airport is too crowded. When it is decided to expand the runways, we need to discuss the way in which Naha Airport is used for joint military-civilian purposes.”

(English translation by T&CT, Lima Tokumori and Mark Ealey)

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