Sendai Airport in Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan, reopened for international flights Thursday with the departure of a charter flight operated by Hi Fly, a Lisbon-based airline.
The chartered flight headed for Malaga, Spain, carrying about 120 passengers.
Resumption of regular international, as well as domestic, flights to and from the airport will also become possible on July 25, thanks to speedier-than-expected progress in restoration efforts in the wake of the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hit the northeastern Japanese region of Tohoku.
Sendai Airport, the biggest airport in the Tohoku region, suffered particularly serious damage as it bore the brunt of the killer tsunami. It resumed domestic commercial flights on April 13, although Japanese airlines have flown only extra flights since then.
Four Japanese airlines, including All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, announced Wednesday that they will resume regular domestic flights to and from Sendai Airport on July 25.
Meanwhile, Continental Airlines will resume twice-weekly regular flights between Sendai and Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific, on Oct.2, the airline's parent company, United Continental Holdings, announced Wednesday.
About 2.80 million passengers arrived at or departed from Sendai Airport -- 2.55 million on domestic flights and 246,000 on international flights –- in fiscal 2009, which ended in March 2010, according to figures from the government of Miyagi Prefecture.
The figures also show that Sendai Airport handled 13,901 tons of cargo -- 12,462 tons on domestic flights and 1,439 tons on international flights -- in fiscal 2009.
Before the March 11 tsunami, regular international flights had departed from the airport for Beijing, Shanghai, Dalian and Changchun in China, Taipei in Taiwan, Seoul in South Korea and Guam in the U.S. and arrived at the airport from Beijing, Shanghai, Dalian, Changchun, Seoul and Guam.
With a population of more than 1 million, Sendai City, the capital of Miyagi Prefecture, is the logistics hub of the Tohoku region. The Port of Sendai-Shiogama is also the largest port in the Tohoku region.
The Port of Sendai-Shiogama comprises two ports –- the Port of Sendai and the Port of Shiogama. It handled about 220,000 TEUs of containers last year, accounting for around 60 percent of all containers handled at ports in the Tohoku region.
Container services resumed at the Port of Sendai-Shiogama on June 8. But the port has not yet been fully restored, and container services there are still limited to domestic feeder ships.
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