Japan opened its third major international airport Thursday with a new gateway near Nagoya, in central Japan.
Chubu Centrair International Airport will begin with 271 weekly international flights to 25 destinations abroad and 94 daily flights to 24 cities in Japan, according to the airport's web site.
The airport, which was built under private-sector leadership, has been met with anticipation as a welcome rival to Tokyo's Narita International Airport and Kansai International Airport near Osaka, which have been criticized in the industry for their high landing fees.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi welcomed the airport's opening Thursday with hopes that it could prove a model for the benefits of public and private sector cooperation.
"It will be run by the private sector and operate 24 hours. I hope that the airport will come up with unbureaucratic ideas and provide better service. I hope this will help vitalize the economy," he told reporters.
Chubu airport opens in the lead up to the 2005 Aichi World Expo, running nearby from March 25 through Sept. 25. The event is expected to attract 15 million visitors.
Among U.S. carriers serving Nagoya, Northwest Airlines Corp. moved its four daily flights to the airport on Thursday. Next month, UAL Corp.'s United Airlines plans to begin daily nonstop flights from San Francisco. AMR Corp.'s American Airlines plans to begin service from Chicago in April. Continental Airlines Inc. began flying from Honolulu to Nagoya in December.
Other regional airports in Japan, including Nagoya Airport, operate limited international flights. Chubu, however, joins Narita and Kansai among the nation's top tier of airports officially designated as international airports by Japan's Transport Ministry, said Chubu airport spokesman Fujito Wakaiki.
The new airport was built on an island reclaimed from Ise Bay.