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Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2004

Itami noise subsidies, hours to be curtailed

Staff writer

OSAKA -- The transport ministry formally notified local government officials Monday of its plans to cut noise pollution subsidies for residents living around Itami airport and to cut the facility's operating hours.

More contentiously, the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry is also pushing to reclassify the airport, which straddles Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, and Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, from a Class One airport, which allows it to handle both international and domestic flights, to domestic flight-only Class Two status.

Despite the Class One classification, Itami currently only handles domestic flights.

Osaka officials, who have already indicated they are willing to accept cuts in subsidies for noise pollution and operating hours, said they oppose the reclassification.

"There were similar discussions a couple of years ago," Osaka Gov. Fusae Ohta said last week, when the ministry first told prefectural officials of its plans. "There was no reason to do so then and there is no reason to do so now."

At present, Itami operates from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in principle, but allows flights that are running late to land until 10 p.m. as long as they pay a higher landing fee.

If the ministry has its way, airlines whose flights can't make the 9 p.m. deadline would have to head to another airport.

In addition, the ministry wants to reduce in stages the amount of compensation for noise pollution that it pays to people living near the airport. The ministry allocated 7.8 billion yen for such subsidies in fiscal 2004, but plans to cut that amount to 5 billion yen over the next five years.

The gap would be made up by a proposed 300 yen per passenger surcharge. While still under discussion, the surcharge will probably be added to the cost of airline tickets instead of a separate tax that would be paid upon departure.

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The Japan Times

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