UPDATE: Flights and hotels in Tokyo struggle to return to normal

15 Mar 2011

Most airlines in Asia-Pacific are operating their normal schedules and hotels have remained opened in Tokyo amid the escalating humanitarian crisis and threat of a nuclear meltdown following the 9-magnitude earthquake that hit the coastal city of Sendai last Friday afternoon.

Although hotels and flights to the capital are returning to normal, travellers to Japan could be placing further demands on already stretched basic supplies, such as a water and fuel. Those hoping to fly to Japan should check the situation with their airline first, and think carefully about whether travel is absolutely necessary. 

Major hotel groups in Tokyo stated that their properties sustained no severe damages from the earthquake and that guests and their staff members were safe.

Hotels in the Japanese capital are now waiving cancellation and rebooking fees. Hyatt issued the waiver until March 31 at all of its eight properties in Tokyo while Hilton has waived the charges “until further notice”. Accor said its three hotels in Greater Tokyo are intact and operational, however, the properties will not accept new reservations until Wednesday March 16, 2011, subject to the situation. The Peninsula Tokyo also stated that it is operational.

After Haneda and Narita Airports reopened on Saturday, most Asian carriers have resumed services and are sticking to their regular schedules. Andrew Herdman, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, said: "Major airports in Japan were temporarily closed immediately after the earthquake, but quickly reopened and airlines have been focused on clearing the backlog of disrupted passengers. Domestic flights are now operating according to the normal schedules.  In addition, Japanese airlines have mounted additional relief flights bringing supplies to the hardest hit areas. International airlines are also operating full schedules to and from Japan, although a number of carriers have adjusted their schedules to minimise overnight stops and related crew changes in Tokyo."

Both Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines have announced they will waive re-booking and re-routing costs, including tickets purchased using frequent flyer miles. Like Cathay Pacific (see story here), Thai Airways is issuing special one-way repatriation fare for flights from Haneda and Narita to Bangkok. Rates start from THB13,000 (US$426).

However, Air China has cancelled all its Tokyo-bound flights and EVA Airways has also cancelled flights to Tokyo and Sapporo until the end of March.

Radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has reached dangerous levels, as engineers try desperately to avert a meltdown. Since the nuclear plant is no longer being used to contribute to the national power grid, rotating power blackouts have been introduced to conserve energy. Services of Japan's train network are running sporadically with major lines completely suspended.

Alisha Haridasani

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