Sep 29, 2016

NAA proposes relaxation of nighttime flight restrictions

A meeting of the four parties relating to Narita Airport, namely Chiba prefecture; the surrounding nine municipalities, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT); and the Narita International Airport Corporation (NAA), was held on Sept. 27, during which the NAA conducted a survey report pertaining to improvements to the functionality of Narita Airport. In addition to the airport's land boundaries and the specific position of the No. 3 runway, it also proposed relaxing nighttime flight regulations, which are currently in effect from 11pm to 6am. The proposal would reduce nighttime flight restrictions to four hours, from 1am to 5am, and would also abolish the restrictions on the number of flights after 10pm and flexible curfew operations. With regard to relaxation of nighttime flight restrictions, NAA stated that it would like to reopen discussions regarding a possible implementation timeline after gaining the understanding of the area in terms of actual specifics of the plan and other environmental measures.

Regarding the necessity of relaxing nighttime flight restrictions, the NAA commented that there are strong demands to further improve the functionality of Narita Airport as a gateway to Japan and one of the Tokyo metropolitan airports. It also pointed out that the extension to allowable flight times, as one measure of remaining competitive with other major airports in Asia, should be implemented in conjunction with airport upgrades.

It also touched on the significantly growing travel needs for early morning arrivals and late night departures, which are more convenient for foreigners visiting Japan, stating that in order to respond to the needs of the foreign visitors, which are expected to increase in number going forward, more convenient schedules are needed, but current nighttime flight restrictions make this difficult.

It also commented that the extension to allowable flight times could make possible schedules such as roundtrips between Narita and overseas locations during the night, or even entice low-cost carriers (LCC) to fly to Japan, and from the perspective of travelers, this could mean longer stays in Japan, improved convenience of connecting to domestic connections, or even spark more demand, making Narita Airport an even more important hub.

From an air cargo transport perspective, it pointed out that one of the Narita Airport's strengths is its functionality as a major international logistics hub due to the development and concentration of international logistics facilities located around the airport itself. It also mentioned that it will need to make full use of the airport in order to achieve the goal of Y1 trillion in agricultural and marine product export value being touted by the government. It explained, however, that under the current nighttime flight restrictions, it is difficult to further expedite cargo transport or capitalize on more demand for air cargo transport. It also noted that there is a concentration of air freight demand during nighttime hours and early in the morning at other major airports in Asia.

In addition, the NAA also conducted a flight case study of 500,000 hours during late night/early morning periods based on interviews with flight companies in an effort to make it possible to set schedules based on flight demand into the future. In order to further improve the functionality of Narita Airport without falling behind in competition with other airports, it believes the ideal allowable flight times should be from 4am to 2am (meaning a nighttime flight restriction between 2am and 4am), but if it is able to achieve a flight period of 5am to 1am (meaning restricted hours of 1am to 5am), it believes that this would meet the majority of such needs.

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