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Special flight carries tourists from Hong Kong to Kansai in boost for area after typhoon

The plane that carried foreign tourists from Hong Kong and other passengers into Kansai International Airport on a special flight is seen at the airport on the morning of Oct. 17, 2018. (Mainichi)

IZUMISANO, Osaka -- Japan Airlines (JAL) flew a special flight from Hong Kong into Kansai International Airport early on Oct. 17 to boost tourism in the Kansai region in western Japan amid its recovery from a September typhoon that forced the airport to close temporarily.

JAL had initially planned to have the flight land at Osaka International (Itami) Airport as the first international flight at the facility in 24 years, but it switched the destination to Kansai International Airport after operations there were fully restored. Itami Airport currently handles only domestic flights.

A total of 135 passengers aboard the flight, JAL 8850, arrived at the airport's Terminal 1 at around 6:50 a.m. One 47-year-old Chinese man who arrived with his family on a group tour commented, "We plan to travel around the Chubu region (in central Japan) to see the autumn colors. The weather is fine and we're looking forward to it."

Due to the temporary closure of the airport on Sept. 4 after being hit by Typhoon Jebi, the 21st tropical cyclone of the year, the number of people visiting tourist spots in the Kansai region plummeted.

In response to the closure, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism allowed international take-offs and landings at Itami Airport and Kobe Airport in the region, and JAL had planned a flight from Hong Kong into Itami. This raised hopes that Itami Airport would show it was equipped to handle international flights.

However, on Oct. 10, a week before the flight, the destination was switched to the restored Kansai International Airport.

(By Sayaka Kamohara, Izumisano Local Bureau)

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