Vietjet Air charter flight to arrive on Jan. 27, 1st int'l arrival in 3 years at Fukushima Airport

The Fukushima prefectural government announced on Jan. 5 that Vietnamese budget carrier Vietjet Air will operate a round-trip charter flight scheduled to arrive at Fukushima Airport on Jan. 27, marking the resumption of international flights to the facility after a three-year hiatus caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The flight has been chartered for a five-day, four-night tour of sightseeing spots in and outside the prefecture before leaving for home on Jan. 31. The local government is appealing to potential inbound visitors from some other Asian markets as well in an attempt to increase the number of chartered flights at the airport as early as this spring. In addition to Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan are strong candidates in the prefecture's plans to build up a track record of inviting charter flights with a view to operating international regular flights in the near future. After arriving at Fukushima Airport, the visitors using the Vietjet flight are scheduled to travel to the famous tourist destination of Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture and other popular sightseeing spots in eastern Japan, including in Tokyo, before returning to stay in Fukushima Prefecture on Jan. 29. Then their itinerary centers around local spots nestled in the prefecture's mountainous Aizu region the next day, among them the feudal post station of Ouchi-juku, Tsurugajo Castle and Lake Inawashiro. They will depart for home from the airport on Jan. 31. The Vietjet aircraft to be used for the flight has 183 passenger seats, with 151 of them, or 82.5%, booked as of Jan. 3. All international flights at Fukushima Airport have been suspended since March 2020, according to the local government. In fiscal 2019 through March 2020, 174 charter flights were operated there by airlines of six countries, carrying 20,667 passengers. The number of charter flights between Fukushima and Vietnam was 45 in fiscal 2018 and 29 in fiscal 2019. The resumption of charter flights followed a series of promotional efforts by the prefectural government. They included dispatching officials to Vietnam to consult with airlines and travel agents and inviting representatives from these entities to Fukushima to provide information that the government hoped would be useful for them to create tour packages. "We would like to have a convincing track record (of securing inbound tourists) in cooperation with domestic travel agents as well," said an official at the Fukushima government's airport and human exchanges section. (Translated by Kyodo News)