South Korea’s Jeju airline ditches Fukushima Airport due to radiation fears
SEOUL – South Korean low-cost carrier Jeju Air has decided not to use Fukushima Airport for planned chartered flights between South Korea and northeastern Japan due to crew fears of radiation, officials have said.
The carrier will switch to Sendai International Airport in Miyagi Prefecture to operate the flights between Incheon International Airport and northeastern Japan from March, they said on Tuesday.
Jeju Air had planned a flight from Fukushima to Incheon airport on March 18 with a return flight on March 20.
However, it is understood some of the airline’s staff expressed health concerns over flights to and from the airport in Fukushima Prefecture, where Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is located.
In a written message to staff, Chief Executive Officer Choi Kyu-nam said there was technically no safety problems associated with Fukushima Airport. But the carrier said it will still cancel its chartered service to allay fears from employees and their families.
Jeju Air will instead use Sendai International Airport to provide Fukushima Prefecture residents with flight access to South Korea, Choi said.
The company’s planned use of Fukushima Airport drew criticism from a South Korean labor organization.
Fears of radiation are still strong in South Korea. The nation has an ongoing ban on imports of all marine products from eight prefectures in Japan, including Fukushima.
Some Jeju Air customers in South Korea reportedly posted online that they wouldn’t use the airline in the future because they didn’t want to “board airplanes that flew over Fukushima.”
H.I.S. Co., which is planning tours using the flights, received a request from Jeju Air to change the route, according to officials of the Japanese firm.
But the travel agency said it hoped that the airline would stick to its original plan and use Fukushima Airport.
Fukushima News: Amid Nuclear Reactor Radiation Fears, South Korea Abandons Japan Airport Flights
South Korean airline Jeju Air announced Tuesday it would cancel all flights to and from Japan’s Fukushima Airport over fears of heightened levels of radiation stemming from the nuclear disaster that befell the city’s nuclear plant in 2011, the Japan Times reported.
The low-cost carrier reportedly abandoned plans for a chartered March 18 flight from Fukushima Airport to Incheon Airport in South Korea and a March 20 return flight after staff complained they did not want to be exposed to potentially harmful levels of radiation in the northwestern Japanese region where the disaster occurred. The airport was located about 40 miles from Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) nuclear power plant when it sustained damage from a deadly March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, causing a massive release of radioactive material and the evacuation of about 160,000 residents.
While TEPCO has undergone a $188 billion recovery effort to clean up the 310-square mile exclusion zone, workers were forced to dump cooling water on the nuclear reactor’s cores, further contaminating the environment by introducing nuclear material to the local groundwater. Radioactive levels within the plant itself were so high, a remote-controlled robot sent to explore the site became incapacitated last month. A study by Japan National Tourism Organization showed that the Feb. 20 levels of radiation at Fukushima Airport were just above twice that of Tokyo, but were less than that of other major cities such as Seoul, Singapore and London.