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Air Travel in Japan Still Severely HamperedMarch 11, 2011 By: Michael Browne
Airports slow to reopen; Sendai Airport "swamped."
|Sendai Airport remained underwater after being struck by 33-foot waves.|
The devastating earthquake in Japan and resulting tsunami is having an impact on flights across the world. In Tokyo, more than 20,000 passengers were stranded at two of the largest airports serving the city, according to media reports.
Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, Japan’s main overseas gateway, said nine flights would leave today as carriers begin clearing a backlog of about 13,800 travelers stranded by delays following the quake.
No planes will land at the airport, according to reports from Bloomberg News. It is yet to be decided what services will operate tomorrow. Earlier an airport spokeswoman told Bloomberg there was no visible damage to runways.
In the latest updates on air travel, two of Haneda Airport’s runways have reopened for arrivals only. Osaka’s two airports are open and undamaged but experiencing acute demand and delays.
The hardest-hit of Japan's airports was without a doubt Sendai, which saw its runways submerged by sweeping black floodwaters when a 33-foot wave struck the coast. Around 1,100 people were reported to be stranded there.
Japan Airlines said that, in addition to Sendai, the airports of Iwate Hanamaki, Yamagata and Aomori were shut.
Japan's All Nippon Airways said 131 domestic and international flights had been canceled, grounding 32,700 passengers, Dow Jones Newswires reported. Transport ministry officials said the shutdowns were temporary steps except at Sendai, where runways will remain closed, Jiji press reported.
Officials of JAL and All Nippon Airways said all aircraft flying near or over Japan at the time of the jolt were confirmed safe, said Jiji.
For U.S. Travelers
The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel alert strongly urging U.S. citizens to avoid tourism and nonessential travel to Japan for the next few weeks as it deals with the aftermath of the earthquake.
"Tokyo airports are currently closed; other airports in Japan may be closed or have restricted access," the agency said in a statement.
Strong aftershocks are likely for weeks following a strong earthquake such as this one, the agency noted. The travel alert expires on April 1.
American Airlines, Delta, Unitedand Continental have issued travel waivers for passengers flying to, from or through Japan in the next several days. The waivers will allow travelers to change their plans without a fee.
American Airlines canceled six flights en route to Tokyo on Friday, with some of the planes diverted to Anchorage, Alaska, and others to the Sapporo and Osaka airports in Japan. Delta canceled 29 flights into and out of Tokyo on Friday.
Aeromexico, however, has announced that the airline’s flights AM058 Mexico-Tijuana-Narita, scheduled to depart on March 10, and flight AM057 Narita- Mexico, scheduled to depart on March 12, have been cancelled. Aeromexico will operate a return flight for passengers of flight AM 058 who
are in Tijuana and were scheduled to fly to Narita and wish to return to Mexico. This flight departed Tijuana at 7:55 am local time, and arrived in Mexico at 1:10 pm local time.
There is no other information on additional cancellations in Narita Airport. Aeromexico is in constant contact with aeronautic authorities and will be in touch with them to determine when flights to and from Japan will be reactivated.
Rail and Subway Problems
Tokyo’s subway system, the world’s busiest with about 8 million riders a day, was shut down after the quake, leaving commuters to wait hours for taxis or search for somewhere to spend the night. Commuter trains serving the city and suburbs were also halted. The 8.9 magnitude quake struck at 2:46 p.m., before the evening rush hour.
According to media reports, Tokyo Metro Co. restarted the Ginza line at 8:40 p.m. while the Hanzomon line had partial service. East Japan Railway Co. (9020), the nation’s largest train operator, stopped all Tokyo-area commuter services and its Joetsu, Tohoku and Nagano bullet-train operations.