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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hundreds stranded at Narita

Staff writer

Hundreds of people were trapped at Narita International Airport over the weekend as the flight cancellation crisis caused by volcanic ash over Europe showed no signs of letting up, an airport official said Monday.

News photo
Urban camping: European passengers camp out at Narita International Airport on Monday as flight cancellations continued due to volcanic ash from Iceland. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Japan's largest international airport became a home for 94 people on Sunday night, 154 on Saturday night, and 116 on Friday night, Narita International Airport Corp. spokesman Yoshiki Kitagawa said.

Italy's Alitalia flew to Rome and Milan from Narita on Monday, making it the first carrier to make it from Narita to Europe since Friday.

The airport and some of the airlines have provided sleeping bags, snacks, water and meal tickets, according to Kitagawa and airline officials. Airlines were also covering hotel expenses for those who left for Europe but ended up returning to Narita because their airplanes were denied permission to land.

"We are trying our best to support passengers," All Nippon Airways Co. spokeswoman Megumi Tezuka said.

The company has no idea how long the crisis will last because everything depends on the European flight authorities, the weather and the amount of ash, she added.

ANA canceled flights from Narita to Frankfurt, London and Paris from Friday to Monday, affecting 7,200 passengers, Tezuka said. ANA runs one round-trip flight on each of the routes each day.

Flight cancellations at Narita totaled 42 on Monday, according to Hiroyuki Naito, spokesman at the transport ministry's Narita airport office. Forty-six were canceled Sunday and 43 flights Saturday. Kyodo News reported that cancellations at Narita, Kansai and Chubu international airports amounted to at least 54 on Monday.

Many airports in Europe have been dysfunctional since late last week as volcanic ash from Iceland blanketed greater Europe. More than 10,000 flights a day are being canceled in Europe.

Japan Airlines said it canceled 10 flights each on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and nine on Friday. The flights were supposed to connect Narita with London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Milan, Rome and Moscow.

On Thursday, flights to London and Amsterdam were forced to return to Narita, and JAL offered the passengers a one-night stay at hotels in and around Narita, according to JAL spokesman Taro Nanba.

ANA made a similar offer to travelers who took off to London on Thursday but were forced back to Narita.

JAL and ANA did not have a figure for financial losses from the crisis.

Flights connecting Narita with Zurich, Munich and Vienna were also canceled Saturday, Sunday and Monday, ANA's Tezuka said. Those flights were operated by Swiss Air, Lufthansa and Austria Air and code-shared with ANA.

JAL spokesman Nanba said his company doesn't know whether flights operated by European carriers and shared with JAL were canceled or not.

Most flights connecting Narita with European cities are operated in cooperation between Japanese and European carriers.

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The Japan Times

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