Japan drops blanket ban on flight reservations after confusion

  • World
  • Thursday, 02 Dec 2021

A passenger wearing a protective mask makes his way next to an arrival gate of Narita international airport on the first day of closed borders to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus Omicron variant amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Narita, east of Tokyo, Japan, November 30, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's transport ministry has cancelled its blanket ban on new reservations for inbound flights and asked airlines to accommodate the needs of returning Japanese, a senior government spokesperson said on Thursday.

The government last month told airlines not to take new reservations for flights to Japan for December in light of the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

But the abrupt measure stirred up worries among those who had intended to return to Japan for year-end holidays, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the move had caused confusion.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a regular news conference that Kishida had asked the transport ministry, which oversees the airline industry, to be mindful of returning Japanese.

"I understand the transport ministry has cancelled its instruction for the blanket suspension of new reservations and asked airlines anew to give sufficient consideration to the needs of returning Japanese nationals," Matsuno said.

Airlines now take new reservations as long as the number of passengers entering Japan remains below the latest upper limit of 3,500 a day, which was lowered from 5,000 last month, a transport ministry official said.

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami, Tim Kelly, Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Gerry Doyle)

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