[>talkairports] Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport: The Rise of Third-Tier Airports in Japan

BY Kai-Chin Shih / 16 MARCH 2014/ SHIZUOKAJAPAN/ talkairlines.wordpress.com

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During a recent road trip from Tokyo to Nagoya, our family decided to make a stop at Shizuoka Airport to visit one of the newest airports in Japan.

Source: Official Shizuoka Airport Website http://www.fujiair.jp/

Source: Official Shizuoka Airport Website
http://www.fujiair.jp/

Shizuoka Prefecture (靜岡県) is famous for its high-quality tea and seafood. Mt Fuji, partially located in Shizuoka Prefecture, is the tallest mountain in Japan and the symbol of the nation.

Shizuoka Airport (IATA:FSZ/ ICAO:RJNS), short for Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport(富士山靜岡空港), is a Japan so-called third-tier airport located in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. Operated by the prefecture government, the airport was built to increase business activities in the region and to expose the locals to the world. In order to attract travelers, the airport offers free parking. There are also buses that take travelers to the local train stations.

Though the intention of airport’s establishment sounds reasonable, the reality seems to be giving the local government a rather tough challenge. Located between Tokyo and Nagoya, both with huge airports such as Narita, Haneda, and Chubu, the airport has to do everything to attract travelers and to prevent itself from being shut down. In order to make airlines, especially international carriers, eager to inaugurate and maintain their Shizuoka routes, the government had to carry out a series of actions to increase the passenger numbers. According to Scott Shih, China Airlines Vice President of Japan, besides offering a great amount of cost-cuts for airlines, the local government also help fill planes by encouraging local travel agencies, business associations, schools, and local communities to travel from this airport. Local businesses were told by the government that they should ship their goods from this airport in order to keep it running. Policies regarding passport fee subsidies for its citizens will be carried out to promote international traveling. The government hopes to achieve a win-win situation for both itself and airline carriers. By ensuring passenger numbers don’t drop, airlines will be willing to maintain their operations, thus providing more transportation choices for locals, bringing more foreigners to the prefecture, and stimulating economic growth.

Currently, ANA (All Nippon Airways) and FDA (Fuji Dream Airlines) operate domestic flights at the airport, while China Airlines (A Taiwan-based carrier), Asiana Airlines (Korean Carrier), Korean Air, and China Eastern Airlines fly to the airport from neighboring countries. However, despite all the governmental efforts, Korean Air will be ending its operations in late-March, proving that there is still a lot the prefecture has to do to keep the airport open.

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Gorgeous view from the observation deck at the airport. There are some interesting light-decos of Mt Fuji, snowmen, and airplanes.

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Delicious seafood curry being sold at one of the airport restaurants. Note the Mt. Fuji-shaped rice pile. The restaurant’s other seafood cuisines such as sashimi and chirashi are also worth a try. After all, this is the prefecture of great seafood! Also, decent green tea is offered at the restaurant by allowing customers to add hot water to grounded green tea leaves

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We were very lucky to see the arrival of a China Airlines flight from Taiwan. China Airlines utilizes Boeing 737-800 to fly between Taipei (Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport) and Shizuoka. Coded as CI168, the flight is operated every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday.

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These are models of 3 airlines than flies to/from Shizuoka: China Airlines “Butterfly Orchid” Special Livery A330-300, ANA Pokemon Boeing 747-400D, and Korean Air Boeing 747-400. The airport just put them out on the day of our visit.

The visit to the Shizuoka Airport was extremely enjoyable. The airport is extremely beautiful with great facilities and, most importantly, a wonderful observation deck. It is interesting to see how third-tier airports in Japan are booming these years. Flights from Korea, China, and Taiwan help expand the world view of people all around Japan while bringing more travelers to areas that used to be hard to access. This will help open up markets that had less been discovered before, contribute to the expansion of the air-travel market in Japan, and stimulate economic growth throughout the nation. It may seem like the rise of regional airports will challenge the existing hub-to-hub strategy applied by most airlines, and decentralize passenger traffic of major airports. However, in my opinion, regional airports exist to serve people that don’t usually travel overseas due to the complicated pattern of point-to-hub traveling. Appropriate developments of  regional airports is a growing trend and should be encouraged if so justified.

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