Sky-view of Memanbetsu Airport changes over 30 years: longer runway and LCC service

Memanbetsu Airport (photographed on September 15, 2021 from a Hokkaido Shimbun Press helicopter)
Memanbetsu Airport (photographed on December 2, 1991)

Memanbetsu Airport is the Okhotsk doorway to the sky. Compared to 30 years ago, the runway has grown 500 meters to a total of 2,500 meters, a length that facilitates even jumbo jets. A taxiway has also been added, making takeoffs and landings smooth. Additionally, the airport building has also undergone two extensions during that time.

The origins of the airport lie in a drift ice observation aircraft runway constructed in Memanbetsu Village (currently Ozora Town) in 1935 by the national government to investigate the correlation between drift ice and cold-weather damage. After going through land formatting transitions including postwar land requisition by US forces, Memanbetsu Airport first emerged in 1963 as a Hokkaido-managed airport with a 1,200-meter-long runway. In 1985, the airport moved to adjoining land in order to transform into a jet service airport that could facilitate takeoffs and landings by jet airplanes. It was reborn as a new airport with a 2,000-meter-long runway.

The subsequent runway extension and building additions were projects that expected an increase in passengers, but recently the number of airport users is in decline. From last year onward, business is in a major depression due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, from February of this year onward, the low-cost carrier (LCC) Peach Aviation has opened LCC Narita and Kansai service, which was much-awaited by the local populace. And bundled airport privatization of seven Hokkaido airports by the organization Hokkaido Airports (HAP) started in March. Expectations are rising for these developments to become a catalyst for area-revitalization after COVID-19.

HAP Memanbetsu Airport Office Chief Ogawa Taketoshi commented, “Currently, there are not that many regional airports with positive elements. We want to link airport management to not only tourism, but also regional industry growth as well.”


Memanbetsu Airport