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happy birthday kansai airport

On Thursday, Osaka's Kansai International Airport celebrated its 14th birthday.

Built on an artificial island, the airport features a stylish terminal with space-age design. Japan is tight for space at the best of times so what better idea than to build a new airport in the sea - or at least, on land dumped in the sea.

Construction workers systematically dismantled Ishizuchi-san, formerly the highest mountain in western Japan, although after the land had been taken for the airport, it became the third highest. The bits of mountain were transported from Shiikoku to the new site, across the water from Awaji Island.

However, the airport is not without its problems......

At first architects from around the world lauded its innovative design and clever use of space. But after several years engineers were called in when a thin film of water started to appear on the runway at high tide. That was five years ago, and engineers are still scratching their heads.

Meanwhile, on bad days, water continues to slew onto the runway, and about three times a year it goes so far as the terminal building, with passengers having to push their trolley carts through an inch of water.

The main terminal building has already sunk a whopping 12 metres. Independent analysts say that if it continues to sink at its current rate, then by the year 2025 it will be completely submerged - a bit of a nuisance for those who can't swim.

Here's a recent photo I took of a jet as it taxied to the main arrivals terminal...

Kansai Airport. Once hailed as the great floating airport. Now known as the not-so-great sinking one.

Realising that building airports on water wasn't such a good idea, the neighbouring prefecture decided to build an airport of its own - on water. Kobe Airport opened in 2006 and is situated less than 30 miles from Kansai Airport.

Along with Kobe Airport, there are numerous others in the region. Critics are asking how many airports the country can sustain.

On top of that, there are safety fears, with so many planes taking off and landing in such close proximity.

The map below gives an indication of just how serious a problem it is....

Airports in and around Osaka. By 2050 it is believed there will be one airport per 75 residents.

Fears about safety may be allayed by the fact that fewer and fewer planes are using Kansai Airport. In response to the lack of planes, the authorities did the obvious thing - and built a second runway.

It's so under-used that on approach to landing, pilots now have the luxury of choosing which runway to land on, depending on how they're feeling that day.

The main reason for its lack of use is the extortionate landing fees. For the biggest jets, airlines have to pay around GB£4000 (US$8000), a fee so high that some airlines have taken extreme measures to cover their losses....

A passenger nearly chokes on his food as a flight attendant demands cash in order to disembark.

Let's hope Kansai Airport can turn around its fortunes in the next 14 years to become Japan's most successful place for planes. Happy birthday Kansai Airport!

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On Saturday, 06 September, 2008, Blogger feitclub said:

KIX is a really cool looking airport, but it isn't very convenient. First, there's a distinct lack of direct Osaka-US flights. Even 14 years in, there's no non-stops to New York! Second, it's just so damn far from the busy parts of Osaka. It takes me well over an hour to get down there. I think if I flew from Itami to Tokyo and then continued abroad, it would take about the same length of time as it would to get down there and fly out of KIX.  

On Saturday, 06 September, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said:

I can't believe JAL are planning to halt their direct service to London from Kansai next year. Then there'll be NO direct flights to the UK from Kansai.  

On Saturday, 06 September, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said:

Yeah, well, Japan has more than its fair share of boondoggle projects, designed by politicians to funnel tax money to the construction industry, which fail financially because they are of no use to the public.

The airport is just a more ambitious version.  

On Sunday, 07 September, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said:

The guy in the third row...absolutely fantastic head of hair, no?  

On Monday, 08 September, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said:

I still have a special feeling for Kansai Airport, as it is the first place I landed in Japan 10 years ago.

I do not find it so inconvenient either. It has a quite pleasant direct flight to Paris, so I sometimes buy an open-jaw ticket to save me one shinkansen trip.

I heard the sinking of the airport was also over since they injected concrete in the soil. I should check that more in details.  

On Monday, 08 September, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said:


On Monday, 08 September, 2008, Blogger owenandbenjamin said:

They won't have to sustain too many airports because half of them are going to sink.  

On Thursday, 11 September, 2008, Blogger K and S said:

I think they need to go back to using Itami for International and Domestic flights! Tell Hashimoto that he can't have it...  

On Sunday, 16 November, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said:

so many air port.
i didn't know.

beef or chikin?  

On Monday, 01 December, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said:

I just flew to the Kansai airport for the first time. (My first flight to Japan was to the Itami airport.) I was expecting something a lot more interesting and nicer. I much prefer Nagoya's new airport. However, I like the Kansai airport better than Narita, which is a confusing mess. I think they designed Narita when they were drunk.

The most striking thing to me about Kansai airport was how EMPTY it was! It was almost spooky, like a ghost airport. Someone above mentioned JAL canceling direct to London flights. Northwest is going to cancel their direct to Detroit flights soon. What will they do if all the airlines leave the airport? Turn it into an industrial boat dock?  

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