Ibaraki Airport – Tokyo’s dark horse airport struggles to regain a definable role

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Around 15 years or so ago a new ‘breed’ of airport, a low cost airport, or just a terminal, began to appear, mainly in Europe and Southeast Asia but also to a lesser degree, later, in North Asia. In Japan they were welcomed because the government wanted to encourage low cost airlines, which would bring in tourists to regions where there were few.

Ibaraki, a new civil airport on the northern outskirts of Tokyo, was quickly redesigned for a low cost function, most of its unnecessary trappings being removed. Traffic began to grow.

But since the COVID-19 pandemic, which only now is beginning to loosen its grip on Japan, Ibaraki has found it hard to re-establish an identity, with a paucity of domestic services operated by a single airline and no international flights at all.

While it is ‘back at Square 1’, this is really the time for the country’s Transport Ministry to revisit whether it should be part of the privatisation process if the local inhabitants want it – although they do tend to be suspicious of anything new.

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