Financial Woes Spur 1st-Ever Closure Of Japanese Public Airport

TOKYO (Nikkei)–The government announced on Friday that Teshikaga Airport in eastern Hokkaido will shut down on Sept. 24, the first-ever closure of a public airport in Japan.

Lake Mashu is favorite tourist attraction in the town of Teshikaga.

The town of Teshikaga, which operates the airport, sought approval to close the facility from the Transport Ministry due to a drop in users and its own financial difficulties. The airport opened in 1970 to provide sightseeing flights during the summer, but just 170 people went on such excursions in fiscal 2007.

In addition, the airport had to conform to stricter security standards designed to prevent terrorist attacks. It faced a need to spend some 200 million yen on metal detectors, gates and other equipment.

Japan has 98 airports now that Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport opened last month, and another is slated to open in Ibaraki Prefecture in March of next year. The number has continued to grow, but most regional airports are losing money.

Other airports may be forced to suspend operations or shut down altogether. A growing number of airports on isolated islands and in remote areas no longer have regular flights. In addition, airlines have accelerated the scrapping of routes that serve regional airports.

(The Nikkei July 11 morning edition)

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