To say that the situation in Japan is fluid would be an understatement. The Tokyo airports are open. Ground transportation between Narita and Tokyo can be difficult as the trains are not running and many of the roads are closed. Bus and taxi service is either very limited or impossible to find so whether you are advising passengers or traveling yourself, plan for this.
Sendai airport is still buried in mud from the rushing water. Airspace around the Fukushima nuclear power plant is also closed due to the obvious dangers associated with the damage at that facility. My contacts recommend utilizing airports south of Tokyo as they are operating as usual. Airports north of Tokyo are to be avoided due to lack of facilities, infrastructure damage, and lack of available jet fuel.
There are reports of local Japanese charter operators and brokers charging premiums of up to 30% for chartering jets out of Japan. Insurance, jet services and fuel are at a premium, and that cost is passed on to the end users of the jet. Demand is very high so don’t expect there to be plenty of availability.
If you want to charter a jet from the US to get to or pick up passengers, there are options available to you but will require a lot of patience and flexibility. US registered aircraft flying into Japan require a permit. These permits for landing in Japan can take time. Several days would be a best case scenario before the tsunami. In the aftermath of this disaster, I have heard that it is taking even longer to get a permit into a Japanese airport. Your waiting passengers may have to be very patient as your charter operator obtains the necessary permits.
Once the permits are in order, arrange a quick pickup. You don’t want to have your chartered aircraft or crew lingering for very long. The situation there can change in an instant, and you don’t want to get stuck. Get in and get out.
I did hear an unconfirmed report of radiation found in food from Narita, so don’t order any airport catering to be brought onboard your aircraft from there. Though I can’t confirm those reports, there is no sense in chancing it!
General aviation has been a very good option for getting people in or out of affected areas after natural disasters. If this is an option for you, make sure to work with a charter operator or broker who has extensive experience in operating in or out of this region. My thoughts go out to those who lost love ones in this disaster and I wish a fast recovery to the Japanese people and all others affected.
If you have specific questions about planning a charter flight, just a general private aviation question, or would like to share your experiences on this topic, please feel free to contact me directly via this form or by leaving a comment below.