Asian Airlines Cancel, Divert Flights Following Japan Quake

(Updates with Narita airport re-opening, number of stranded passengers, and parts of Tokyo subway services resuming in third and fourth paragraphs; adds Air China flight cancellations in 12th paragraph, and European flight disruptions from 20th paragraph onwards.)

By Hiroyuki Kachi and Joanne Chiu


TOKYO (Dow Jones)–Japanese air carriers cancelled hundreds of flights, grounding thousands of passengers, while airlines elsewhere in Asia and Europe diverted or suspended flights bound for Tokyo Friday after a massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck northeast Japan, temporarily halting operations at Tokyo’s main airports.

The quake, Japan’s worst, caused untold death and damage, triggering a devastating tsunami in coastal areas and disrupting communications and power supply in the worst-hit areas.

Tokyo’s major airports halted flights, though Haneda Airport was later reported to have reopened several runways. Narita airport also reopened late Friday, Kyodo reported, putting the total number of flights cancelled so far from the quake to 711. The agency reported that 13,000 people were stranded at Narita and another 10,000 at Haneda terminals.

Parts of Tokyo subway services resumed after being halted earlier, while the shinkansen bullet train service in the quake-torn areas has been suspended.

Japan’s All Nippon Airways Co. (9202.TO) said 131 domestic and international flights were cancelled, grounding 32,700 passengers.

Including flights which changed destinations, the earthquake affected 162 flights and 37,800 passengers, ANA said.

An ANA spokesman said all flights coming into and out of Tokyo’s Narita airport and an airport in Sendai in northern Japan had been earlier cancelled from 0900 GMT. But he said the Haneda airport in Tokyo is partially operating for takeoff and landing.

Japan Airlines said that 27 of its flights had changed destinations affecting 5,290 passengers, while it was still calculating the number of flight cancellations.

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. (0293.HK) said its flights to Japan have been affected by the devastating earthquake and that it expects the flights to continue to be affected in the coming days.

The Hong Kong-based carrier said in a statement two of its flights to Tokyo’s Narita Airport from Hong Kong were diverted to Nagoya and Osaka on Friday, while another flight to Nagoya from Taipei was diverted to Osaka.

As of 0900 GMT, Airport Authority Hong Kong, which operates the city’s airport, said two flights to Tokyo that were scheduled to depart Friday have been delayed to Saturday, while another flight was canceled.

The Hong Kong government also issued a travel alert for Japan, urging residents to avoid non-essential travel to the country.

A spokeswoman of Air China Ltd. (0753.HK) told Dow Jones Newswires the Chinese flag carrier cancelled five flights to Tokyo from Beijing and Shanghai Friday and will keep the situation under review regarding resumption of those flights.

Singapore Airlines Ltd. (C6L.SG) diverted two flights bound for Tokyo to other airports after Tokyo’s Narita Airport was temporarily shut down.

The two flights, one from Singapore and one from Los Angeles, have landed safely at Fukoka and Haneda airports respectively, a spokeswoman for the airline told Dow Jones Newswires by telephone.

South Korea’s two major airlines also said they had suspended some flights to Japan. Korean Air Lines Co. (003490.SE) initially halted flights to Narita and Haneda airports, but later said it had resumed flights to Haneda airport as of 0800 GMT.

Asiana Airlines Inc. (020560.SE) said it has stopped flights to Narita, Haneda and Sendai airports.

Air India also said it has canceled one of its Tokyo-bound flight from New Delhi Friday.

Malaysian Airline System Bhd (3786.KU) said flights to Narita and Haneda airports would be disrupted with one Narita-bound flight already diverted to Taipei.

“We have received notification from the airport authorities to suspend our flights in and out of Narita Airport and Haneda Airport,” Malaysia Airlines Director of Operations, Azharuddin Osman said in a statement. “We will only be able to confirm our flight schedules once we receive clearance from the relevant civil aviation authorities.

“It is likely that flights to Japan may continue to be affected in the coming days. We will monitor the situation closely, especially the operation status of the affected airports,” he added.

Flights to Japan from Europe were also disrupted. British Airways, part of International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (IAG.LN, IAG.MC), cancelled two flights to Tokyo from London. Two flights from Japan to the U.K. departed before the earthquake struck, so the carrier has no planes in the country.

A British Airways spokeswoman couldn’t say when flights to Japan would resume, but said the carrier was keeping the situation under review.

Franco-Dutch airline Air France-KLM (AF.FR) hadn’t decided whether to operate two services from Europe to Japan Friday. One flight to Tokyo was diverted to Osaka.

At Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA.XE), one flight to Japan was postponed, spokesman Michael Lamberty said. There were no reports of Lufthansa employees affected, he added.

Its Swiss unit still was planning to operate a flight to Japan later Friday.

-By Hiroyuki Kachi, Dow Jones Newswires; 813-6269-2789;

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