In the first week of 2024, Japan faced two national tragedies, leaving the nation in mourning and raising concerns among travelers about their upcoming plans.
On January 1, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck Japan’s Noto Peninsula, resulting in numerous casualties and injuries. Subsequently, on Tuesday, a Japan Airlines plane collided with a Japanese coast guard aircraft at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, claiming the lives of five coast guard crew members who were en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims. Fortunately, all 379 passengers on the Japan Airlines plane were safely evacuated before the aircraft caught fire. The incident is currently under investigation, and the cause remains unknown.
Andres Zuleta, a travel specialist at Boutique Japan, commented on the challenging start to the New Year in Japan, acknowledging the ongoing investigations into both the earthquake and the plane crash. He commended the efficient evacuation efforts by the flight crew, providing a small but meaningful silver lining in the midst of the turbulent period.
The impact of the plane crash on Tokyo flights is notable, with the runway where the incident occurred still closed, according to an information center operator at Haneda Airport. As of now, it is uncertain when the runway will reopen. Wednesday saw the cancellation of at least 140 flights, affecting approximately 20,000 passengers of Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways.
Travelers planning to fly in or out of Haneda Airport this week are advised to contact their airline for information on potential disruptions to flight schedules, as stated on the airport’s website.
Despite the recent cancellations, international travelers may not face significant disruptions, notes Zuleta. Many airlines continue to operate in and out of Haneda, and Tokyo boasts two major airports, with a considerable number of international flights arriving and departing from Narita Airport. Zuleta emphasizes that most tourists in Japan rely heavily on the country’s extensive railway system for transportation, making rail travel the primary mode of exploration. While disruptions at Haneda Airport may impact domestic leisure and business travelers, international tourists are less likely to experience substantial interference with their plans.