Iwakuni offering new flights to Okinawa, Tokyo
By AARON KIDD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 31, 2016
A commercial terminal at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni is offering new flights to Okinawa and Tokyo — a move officials say should help lift the local economy while benefiting military installations throughout Japan.
Earlier this week, Iwakuni city and U.S. military officials used traditional drum performances and a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the start of a new All Nippon Airways route to Naha Airport on Okinawa and increased services to Haneda Airport near downtown Tokyo from Iwakuni Kintaikyo Airport, a Marine Corps statement said.
“We have a great expectation that the new flight route to [Okinawa], along with one additional flight to [Tokyo], will promote local tourism and attract businesses and revitalize the local economy, not just in Iwakuni city, but in the area around here,” Masashi Tohgu, a local tourism official, said in the statement.
U.S. personnel will also benefit from the added flights, said John Lackie, deputy director of Iwakuni’s Defense Policy Review Initiative Integrated Program Management Office.
“The addition of a flight to Okinawa allows not only personal recreation travel but also provides another travel option for military personnel needing to conduct business on Okinawa,” he said.
Okinawa — the southern island prefecture that’s home to dozens of U.S. military installations, including Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and Kadena Air Base — boasts many attractive beaches and is a popular tourist destination.
“Passenger usage, including U.S. government passenger usage, has been steadily increasing, and has met and is beginning to exceed the original demand forecast numbers set by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism,” the statement said.
Before the off-base terminal opened at Iwakuni in late 2012, servicemembers flew into Hiroshima, about 60 miles to the north, before utilizing other travel options to the air base.