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Japan asks airlines to halt new bookings as Olympic traffic rises

Uzbekistan judo athletes and officials arrive at Narita airport near Tokyo on July 12, 2021. (Kyodo)

CHIBA, Japan (Kyodo) -- The Japanese government has asked airlines to halt new bookings by the general public for flights arriving in Japan during the period when arrivals of athletes and delegation officials for the Tokyo Olympics increase, according to sources close to the matter.

    With one week to go until the start of the Tokyo Olympics, the transport ministry is seeking to limit the number of arrivals to smoothly conduct coronavirus testing and other border controls at five Japanese airports to prevent the spread of COVID-19, they said.

    Arrivals of visitors related to the Olympics are expected to peak on Sunday, they said.

    The ministry has requested airlines to stop accepting new bookings for flights arriving at the five airports -- Tokyo's Haneda, Narita near the capital, Chubu in central Japan, Kansai in western Japan, and Fukuoka in southwestern Japan -- during busy times of the day from last Sunday to next Thursday, the sources said.

    During especially congested times, even bookings for visitors related to the Olympics may be halted, while transit passengers are exempted from the request.

    If there is an increase in reservations during the busy period despite the request to halt new bookings, the ministry may ask airlines for the reason and demand that they be canceled if it deems the airlines were not following the request.

    The latest initiative comes as the government has said it will restrict the average number of new daily arrivals in the country to 2,000 as a step to tighten coronavirus border controls.

    Based on the reservation status, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism expects the number of arrivals to reach the daily upper limit in July and August.

    It has asked foreign airlines to curb the number of passengers per flight to 40 or below, excluding those in transit and related to the Summer Games, until the end of August.

    For Japanese airlines, the ministry has asked them to restrict the number to 3,400 passengers a week.

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