The number of round-trip flights linking Chinese and Japanese cities has topped 1,000 per week, with China regaining top spot from South Korea in frequency of flight connections with Japan, a Japanese government source said Tuesday.
Behind the rise is a bilateral accord in September to relax rules on Chinese airlines' round-trip flights, pushing them up by more than 230 to about 1,130 for the winter timetable starting Oct 27 compared with the summer schedule that began in March.
China last ranked first in the number of round-trip flights to Japan in the 2009 summer season.
Narita airport near Tokyo had limited Chinese airlines' round-trip flights to 99 per week, but the figure soared to 210 after regulations were eased. The number is expected to expand further, reaching 310 next March and 410 in March 2021.
"We've already received demands (from Chinese airlines) for more than 310 (round-trip) flights" per week, said the government source.
Similarly, Tokyo's Haneda airport will relax regulations on the number of Chinese airlines' flights next March.
On Sept. 2, Japan's Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry agreed with the Civil Aviation Administration of China to loosen regulations on Chinese airlines' flights to and from Narita airport in stages.
They also agreed to eliminate restrictions on the number of flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai at Japanese regional airports.
"Japan will absorb China's robust demand for visiting Japan," the government source said.
The Japanese government aims to attract 40 million visitors in 2020 and the increase of Chinese airlines' flights could make up for a recent series of flight cancellations by South Korean airlines amid worsening bilateral ties.
The number of visitors from China in the January to September period was estimated at 7.4 million, up 14.8 percent from a year before and accounting for about 30 percent of the total, according to data from the Japan National Tourism Organization.© KYODO