Tokyo airport replaces landing-fee negotiator
By Desmond Hutton
Bloomberg News Service
TOKYO Tokyo's Narita Airport replaced its main negotiator in charge of relations with the International Air Transport Association as the airline group presses the airport to lower its landing fees.
The Narita Airport Authority replaced Yasuhiro Matsuzaki, who had held the post for four years, with Takeshi Arakawa on June 1, said Narita spokeswoman Yumiko Abiru.
Talks between the airport and IATA broke down after Narita rejected a proposal in April to reduce its landing fees, which are the world's highest. IATA officials, who have been lobbying Narita since July to lower the fees, worry a change in negotiators may delay talks further.
"We are surprised that Narita has changed the negotiator at such a critical time in these talks," said IATA spokesman Tony Concil. Narita's charges are "completely out of line with the current world situation. This is an extremely important issue to the airlines which are struggling for survival."
Airlines pay about $7,600 to land a Boeing 747 at Narita, about three times the cost at Seoul's Incheon airport, which opened in March 2001.
Matsuzaki's replacement was part of reshuffle of workers to new positions this month, Narita officials said. Matsuzaki now works in the airport's safety department.
Airlines are calling on Narita to make it cheaper to land at Japan's busiest international hub as carriers struggle to recover from the Sept. 11 attacks.
The airline industry will probably extend losses this year, IATA said, with losses narrowing to between $4 billion and $8 billion this year compared with a loss of $12 billion in 2001. The industry's worldwide earnings totaled $2.8 billion in 2000.