Osaka Kansai Airport Has Been Flooded And Closed By A Typhoon

Filed Under: Travel

Japan’s third largest airport after Tokyo Haneda and Tokyo Narita is Osaka Kansai. This is Osaka’s main international airport. There is also a smaller secondary airport in Osaka, Itami, which handles domestic flights.

If you have ever flown into, out of, or over Kansai Airport you will remember its unique location — the airport is a man-made island off the coast of Japan.

While this is a clever way to build a large airport in an area where there is insufficient space on the mainland, it does bring with it some serious risks, especially in a typhoon prone region.

On Tuesday afternoon (Japan time), Typhoon Jebi hit the region, battering the airport island with strong winds, and high waves.

Osaka hit by Typhoon Jebi (Source: Kyodo News)

Both Kansai runways were flooded, as well as the basement floor of a terminal building.

Perhaps even more seriously, the 3.7km sole bridge linking the airport to the mainland was severely damaged when a tanker ship anchored in Osaka Bay, the 2,591-ton ‘Houn Maru,’ was swept into the bridge. Fortunately no one was injured, but both the bridge and tanker were severely damaged.

Check out this crazy footage of the bridge linking the airport with the mainland:

This will have a serious impact on transportation to the airport, when the airport does eventually reopen.

Coincidentally today was the 24th birthday of the airport opening. Fortunately, no staff or passengers at the airport have been seriously injured.


Osaka Kansai Airport on 4 September (Source: NHK)

Bottom line

Visiting Japan in September does bring with it the risk of typhoons disrupting travel plans. I was in Ishigaki, which is a tiny island Southwest of the main Japan islands in September a few years ago and had to leave early, because a typhoon was approaching the island. ANA sent additional planes to evacuate those people on Ishigaki.

It was a frightening experience, as we could see the winds rapidly increasing as we drove to the airport, but we got out to Tokyo okay.

The closing of Kansai Airport will have flow on effects at other airports as well. Presumably there are a number of aircraft ‘stuck’ at Kansai right now (you can see several ANA planes still at their gates in the image above), which may have been operating flights to say Tokyo, and then on to other Japanese or Asian destinations. JAL and ANA both operate substantial hubs here, and will be scrambling to find planes to operate those flights not touching Kansai that would have been operated by the aircraft ‘stuck’ there to avoid cancelling more flights than necessary.

If you are on any ANA or JAL flight this week I would check your booking to see if it has changed, regardless of whether it involves Kansai. If you are affected you should be rebooked onto another service but note until Kansai opens again it may be impossible for the airline to determine an alternate service that will actually operate.

If calling, be patient as wait times will be substantial.

Are you traveling to or from Japan this week?

Comments
  1. Today’s typhoon was the strongest one in 25 years hitting Japan. Although Tokyo is away from its path the strong wind can be felt even now.

  2. MEL-NRT-HEL-LHR on Sunday. It looked like the typhoon would be well passed by then but I guess it depends what aircraft were where and how long it takes to recover. The only Japanese plane is a JAL 788 from MEL so I guess i’ll find out; there are obviously bigger problems than getting me to London and plenty of rerouting options.

  3. I was scheduled to depart NRT for ATL sept 4 but delta gave waiver so we were able to depart KIX sept 3 8pm before the storm hit. Unfortunately had to route through HNL so that’s a ton of flying time. And the original NRT flight departed on the 4th on schedule….

    Are the Japanese more aggressive flying in high winds? I would have thought after living through the storms in Florida last September that flight would have been cancelled.

  4. Always find KIX a strange airport, and the long train ride to the city center is just tiring after so many hours of flying. The LCC terminal also was a very unique experience, with the combination of super bare minimum and typical luxurious shopping services.
    The bridge looked like one side was severely damaged, probably had to close down one direction at least. Hope the train track underneath in the middle was not severely damaged, as it was very obscured in the video.

  5. I used to live near Osaka and this airport was the worst part. *Miles* from anything (including land), security lines long enough to make anyone weep with no fast track services, immigration slower than Japan’s economy, awful lounges (most of which are landslide for some reaon) and almost nowhere to buy a bottle of water or a snack airside…

    The airport is so badly managed that each night literally hundreds of people sleep, stranded in the terminals because the public transport services stop before the last flights land. I have a friend who has been in this situation three times, but I’ve fortunately only slept rough there once. Fortunately the benches don’t have armrests so you can lie down, and the police patrol around checking people’s ID and keeping everyone safe.

    My thoughts go out to the people of Kansai right now. I sincerely hope there are no fatalities but may the typhoon spare humanity this ridiculous, sinking, debt-ridden airport. Fly to Itami instead.

  6. Do you really think there were a number of aircraft stuck at the airport? I would guess that almost all of the aircraft were relocated in advance of the storm. Why would airlines risk having their aircraft be exposed to a huge typhoon on a man-made island? Seems like pure conjecture on the author’s part with no basis in fact. Why “report” this without sourcing?

  7. Itami handles domestic flights only. You might want to correct the respective sentence in the first paragraph of your article.

  8. I wonder if anything like that happened to NGO; also an artificial island airport in Japan… DL did send out a waiver to one of my friends that’s flying from NGO to DTW.

    Also, I head a lot yesterday about ORD t5 flooding regarding weather-related airport flooding.

  9. Yeah, shockingly there WERE a handful of aircraft left on the ground at KIX. I can’t imagine what was going through the operators’ heads when they thought this was a good idea. The flooding is reportedly up to their engines.

  10. @ Lucas – I can see plenty of domestic Japanese flights from NRT to airports other than KIX cancelled today which suggests the aircraft couldn’t get to NRT to operate the onward flight.

  11. Part of the reason KIX is offshore is that authorities wanted to avoid a Narita-like battle with farmers and others. Readers of a certain age will recall the struggles, quite violent at times and lasting for a decade, over Narita construction, as there was compulsory acquisition of farm land. People died.
    It’s a pity that Itami couldn’t be extended, it is far more convenient ( like Haneda in that regard; being assigned landing rights are Haneda used to be punitive…China Airlines was just about the only international carrier there, under pressure from Beijing; now ever carrier wants Haneda rather than Narita).

  12. @RF
    Correct. Beijing pressured Tokyo to punish Taiwan by having China Airlines relegated to using Haneda after Narita opened ( it was seen as a bit of an insult). But in fact it turned to CI’s advantage as Narita wasn’t popular and many passengers preferred the easier trip in from Haneda ( it even became popular for those ex Hong Kong , Manila and Bangkok, even though it meant a transit in Taipei). The Taipei-Haneda flight was always full.

  13. @Lucas, you can see three planes in the picture @James posted of the flooded airport. So there are at least three there. Who knows what planes are also in the maintenance hangers (as if it were me, I’d be moving as many planes under cover as possible. Even one plane has the potential to be disruptive. @James did not make the statement without foundation.

    On another note, the only time I’ve been to Osaka was on a trip to Singapore when we were diverted from NRT due to a… typhoon!

  14. It’s no big deal for people living there.
    Typhoon visits every year.
    And every year weather experts said this is biggest ever, then booooo.
    It’s just bad luck to KIX.
    But it’s not the biggest typhoon been to Kansai area, not at all.

  15. @lucas before making an ass of yourself look at the picture. There are three ANA aircraft with water all around them. James provided photographic evidence. Should have gone to #specsavers. (By the way, that’s a popular UK ad campaign for people who need glasses).

  16. @T

    I don’t know how long you last visit KIX, but as a person currently living in Osaka and heavily use KIX half of what you said just isn’t true, at least as of now.

    First, lounge situation is so true. Most are landside. But security is hit or miss. There are days where there is literally no line too. But it’s getting worse, as more tourist visit Japan. Airside, there are drink vending machine everywhere, selling drink at the same price as other location (which means cheaper than those at tourist location).

    As for transport, there are bus to the city departing every hour during the night now. But other public transport aren’t running at that time anyway, and most of us avoid those late night arrival.

    As for arrival, well, from my experience Kansai is among the fastest I have gone from aircraft to train station, in *economy* (20-30 min is the norm for me, with checked bag). It beats a lot of airport even when in business.

    @eskimo

    Still better than Narita, eh? And unlike Haneda, you can’t really expand ITM.

  17. Currently in Tokyo and scheduled to fly from HND to KIX tomorrow, currently my flight is not impacted, but we will see.

    Even in Tokyo yesterday was pretty bad wind wise, while we didn’t get much rain the wind was so bad several train lines were closed and Disney shut down most of its park operations. My guess is the wind impacted flights into NRT and HND

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