Sendai Airport, devastated by tsunami, reopens April 13th

By David Flynn, April 8 2011
Sendai Airport, devastated by tsunami, reopens April 13th

Sendai Airport, which was damaged in Japan's  March 11 earthquake and then flooded under metres of water in the subsequent tsunami, will reopen to commercial services next week, with the first flights conducted by Japan Airlines and arriving from Haneda and Osaka.

Sendai's recovery comes after a massive repair and cleanup operation by the Japanese Government supported by the US Air Force.

Cameras captured the dramatic surge of the tsunami towards the Sendai coastline and then overland until the tarmac, taxiways and runway were all below water – damaging millions of dollars worth of ground-based electrical and safety equipment and infrastructure.

But a larger question still remains: is it safe to travel to Japan?

The Australian Government's SmartTraveller service is still advising "do not travel" to Tokyo and surrounding areas "due to limitations on essential services, infrastructure damage, aftershocks and continuing uncertainty about the status of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant."

The overall level of advice for Japan remains at a "high degree of caution". Qantas has extended its change fees waiver for passengers booked to travel to Japan through April 30th.

If your business calls for unavoidable travel to Tokyo or Japan, be warned that travel insurance will generally not cover travellers when a government warning has been issued or even if the traveller should reasonably have known their trip had a higher than normal level of risk.

In other words, your travel insurance policy almost certainly won't cover you, so you should contact your insurer to obtain written advice stating they will cover you for the duration of your stay.

Last month saw Jetstar - the main Australian carrier into Japan - halve its Tokyo flights from fourteen to seven in response to collapsing demand in the Japanese market following the earthquake as well as the temporary closure of Tokyo's international Narita and Haneda airports.

Most airlines suspended rebooking fees and in some cases cancellation fees for changes made for flights to Japan, although some travellers were stung by massive cancellation fees charged by travel agents.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

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