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Japanese airlines to resume inbound flight bookings for returnees

This photo shows passengers arriving at Narita airport near Tokyo no Dec. 2, 2021. Japan retracted the same day its plan to completely halt bookings for inbound international flights in December due to the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus as the step was criticized as going too far. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's transport ministry said Friday domestic airlines will resume taking inbound international flight bookings from the next day, enabling returnees and expatriates to travel back to the country after the reversal of an initial travel blanket ban to prevent the Omicron coronavirus variant spread.

    All Nippon Airways Co. and Japan Airlines Co. will accept new reservations from midnight Friday, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, following criticism the measures against Omicron had gone too far.

    The move comes after the Japanese government lowered its daily cap for people arriving from overseas to 3,500 from 5,000.

    According to the ministry, passengers may not be able to reserve a seat back to Japan as bookings for inbound flights from abroad in December are already mostly full.

    However, the ministry said it and the airlines are planning to accept new bookings on days that have not reached inbound limits and will utilize potential cancellations.

    The ministry on Monday asked airlines to completely stop taking reservations for Japan-bound flights until the end of December in a measure against the Omicron variant.

    But the request was withdrawn on Thursday after it came to light the ministry had not informed the Prime Minister's Office or transport minister Tetsuo Saito prior to the announcement, causing a wave of criticism and public confusion.

    Under the measure, Japanese citizens and foreign residents would not have been able to return until next year unless they already had reservations.

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