First Int'l Charter Flight from Sendai Airport since Tsunami - Regular Int'l Flights Restarting in July

On June 23, an international flight took off from Sendai Airport in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, the first to do so since the Tohoku Pacific Earthquake struck.

Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture-based JTB Tohoku (a part of JTB Corp.) chartered the flight to Malaga, Spain from Hi Fly, a Portuguese aircraft leasing company, for travelers going on tours in Europe. Sendai Airport was completely shut down by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Aircraft were allowed to operate again on a limited basis in April and the charter flight to Malaga was the first international commercial flight since the airport's reopening.

According to the airport, the immigration facilities needed to restart international commercial flight services were not to be prepared until July, but temporary facilities have been set up for charter flights. More international charter flights are scheduled for departure on June 29 and July 9 and 20.

The pre-earthquake schedule for regular domestic commercial flights will largely be restored in July 25. Starting on this date, All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd. (ANA) will restart flights to Sapporo, Osaka (Itami), Chubu and Okinawa along with some extra flights. Additionally, Japan Air Lines Co., Ltd. (JAL) will restart flights on its Sapporo and Fukuoka routes, Hokkaido International Airlines Co., Ltd. (Air Do) will fly to Sapporo and Ibex Airlines Co., Ltd. will fly to Narita and Hiroshima. As for regular international commercial flights, U.S.-based United Air Lines, Inc. said the company plans to restart service on its Guam route in October.

Recovery work at Sendai Airport is mainly confined to the passenger terminal while rail access is expected to resume along the entire line by the end of September. Airlines are urging travelers to use buses, taxis and other forms of public transportation for the time being.