New Chitose Airport passenger numbers fall below 10 million for second consecutive year, as new government measures increase sense of crisis

Yearly transition in passenger numbers at New Chitose Airport (Compiled by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and HAP)

Hokkaido Airports Co., Ltd. (HAP) announced on January 21 that the total number of passengers at New Chitose Airport in 2021 decreased by 11.4% from the previous year, to 8,234,159 This is the second consecutive year that the number fell below 10 million, and was the lowest on record. The number of passengers on domestic flights in November and December, when COVID-19 infections had temporarily settled down, exceeded 1 million and showed signs of recovery, but infections suddenly increased again due to the new Omicron variant. It is now unclear when the number of passengers is expected to recover.

With regard to the number of domestic passengers in 2021 on a monthly basis, February saw the lowest number due to the government’s declaration of a state of emergency; the figure was 361,461, down 75.2% from the same month in the previous year. The highest number of visitors was in December, when the number increased by 119.5% to 1,146,802, as seasonal demand for returning home also picked up. The number of passengers on international flights throughout the year dropped to zero for the first time since the airport opened. In 2019, before the pandemic occurred, the airport was used by approximately 3.86 million people.

Hokkaido Airports Co., Ltd. (HAP), which operates seven airports including New Chitose, points out that “The impact of COVID-19 has become tangible in the number of passengers.” The government’s official decision on January 25 to apply additional “priority measures to prevent the spread of infections” in Hokkaido and other areas is also a “negative factor” that increases the sense of crisis. Finnair, a major Scandinavian airline plans to resume regular passenger flights between New Chitose and Helsinki, Finland this spring, but the spread of infections may affect its decision.

According to HAP’s CEO, Gamo Takeshi, the company is busy “doing everything possible to help itself” recover after the pandemic has been brought under control. Last autumn, HAP signed a collaboration agreement with the operator of Incheon International Airport (South Korea), one of the largest international hub airports in Asia, and also signed a similar agreement with Fuji Dream Airlines (Shizuoka) to increase charter flights to the seven airports in Hokkaido.

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