The U.S. and Japanese governments have continued negotiating new flight routes to increase the number of arrival and departure slots for international flights at Haneda Airport. The two governments are expected to sign a formal agreement shortly, the Nikkei learned. The number of slots will increase from the current 60,000 to 99,000 a year. The operation of new routes will start prior to the the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. It will add momentum to the expansion of international visitors to Japan.
Airliners using the new flight routes will fly over central Tokyo. Regarding measures against possible airplane noise and falling objects, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism has held meetings with residents who live in communities beneath the new routes to gain their understanding. Establishing new flight routes is an indispensable measure for increasing inbound visitors to Japan. As airlines are eager to tap the robust demand for travel, they have high expectations for the new routes. From now the focus will shift to the allocation of the new slots to airlines.
Airliners using the new flight routes will pass through “Yokota airspace,” which is controlled by the U.S. forces Yokota base. The U.S. has been reluctant to allow civilian airplanes to pass the airspace out of concern that it may affect training of military aircraft.
An increase in Haneda slots will lead to greater profits for American airlines. With the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games approaching, the Japanese government had been concerned that if it couldn’t establish new flight routes, the entire operation of the Olympic games might be affected. So Tokyo sought Washington’s understanding on the matter.
Under the circumstances, the U.S. has finally heeded Japan’s plea and shifted to a stance of accepting the establishment of new routes. Arrangements are underway for Japan to take over air traffic control from Yokota base for the portion of airliners’ flights through Yokota-controlled airspace.