Japan air travel update

I am flying out of Tokyo tonight to spend the holiday weekend in Hawaii and try to decompress from all the nonsense surrounding the disaster situation here.

Narita Airport is operating fairly normally — it has its own generators which will keep it online through the surrounding blackouts — but most European airlines have dramatically altered their flying patterns, adding stops in Seoul, Beijing or Hong Kong. Lufthansa has stopped serving Tokyo entirely. The reason is that foreign flight crews do not want to spend a night in Narita when there is a nuclear meltdown raging just up the road, so they are instead overnighting elsewhere in Asia and operating day trips in and out of Tokyo from there.

From online fora, I have also discovered that American flight crews are agitating. They are not only concerned about radiation, but are also protesting that aftershocks disturb their sleep (posing safety concerns), and that the periodic blackouts and runs on toilet paper are making their layovers unnecessarily rough. The big problem here is that unlike the European airlines, Delta, American and United-Continental really need to keep operating direct flights to Narita, as they route almost all US-to-Asia passengers through Narita (Delta to its own connecting flights, other airlines to local JV partners’ connecting flights) and would be forced to accommodate connecting passengers on non-affiliated airlines at considerable expense if their own flights were diverted to other Asian airports.

Most governments are currently advising against non-essential travel to Japan, and I second this recommendation; there are too many variables that could combine to make Japan travel a living hell. If you really need to come here for whatever reason, plan to fly into Nagoya or Kansai.

3 thoughts on “Japan air travel update”

  1. It’s too easy to judge others, but since I am sitting in Tokyo with my wife, infant and mother-in-law, I will! I find no fault with people who choose to stay, or to go, Japanese, or not. There is no relevant increase of radiation in Tokyo, yet, and the non-hyperventilating consensus is that there won’t be. Not to say that I am not compulsively following the situation.

    However, to pussy-out as a member of a flight crew, when you have the best access to escape of anyone in the country, A PLANE, is contemptible when it means these flights are going to get cancelled. Maybe 20 000 dead, and a few million people living in fear and this is your response? If there were real danger that they couldn’t fly away from in time, I’d respect that; since that’s not nearly the case here, fire their @$$@$!

  2. Perhaps the flight crew realised that the amount they are exposed to while doing their jobs is actually more than was ever recorded in Tokyo….

    Enjoy Hawaii. I’m heading that way at the end of the month for a conference, and am glad to know the airports are functioning smoothly (although I did check on their own websites of course).

  3. I think that the issue is less about flight crews being worried about the radiation than about the fact that they might not be able to sleep because of aftershocks. Almost nothing is a bigger factor in aviation accidents than a sleep deprived pilot.

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