A highly liberal air services agreement has been negotiated between Japan and South Korea that is being dubbed by some as Japan's first Open Skies accord.

Japan has long been accused of maintaining a restrictive air services regime and being slow to open up to additional foreign airline services.

With its breakthrough agreement with South Korea, Japan has agreed to allow airlines from each side to operate an unlimited number of flights to and from any international airport in the other country, with the exception of the two airports serving the Japanese capital Tokyo, Haneda and Narita.

South Korea's construction and transportation ministry says the agreement is Japan's first with another country that allows for a near-unlimited number of passenger and cargo flights. South Korea has Open Skies agreements with several countries.

The Japanese side insisted that the number of weekly flights to and from Tokyo's Narita and Haneda airports remain capped at 73 for at least the near future due to congestion at the two airports. Narita is the main international airport for Tokyo. It has one main runway and a secondary runway that is being extended, which in future will allow for more airline services.

Haneda is primarily a domestic airport with limited international flights to select destinations including Seoul Gimpo. A fourth runway now under construction will allow for more international services to be operated when it is completed.

Japan and South Korea already had a liberal air services agreement in place, but there were caps on the number of weekly flights and limits on the number of cities that could be served in both Japan and South Korea.

In South Korea, for example, flights were limited to Seoul's Gimpo and Incheon airports as well as the airports in Busan and Jeju. Airlines now will be able to operate to and from other cities in the country such as Cheongju, Daegu and Gwangju.

There are already hundreds of flights between the two countries each week, connecting four airports in South Korea with 26 airports in Japan.

Source: Airline Business