Rapid U-Turn: Japan Drops Controversial Flight Booking Ban

Japan has hastily dropped a ban on new incoming flight bookings just a day after bringing it in. The restriction was brought in as a response to global concern surrounding the Omicron COVID-19 variant. Following a massive backlash from passengers, it now seems as though the policy is being reworked to better target potential risk areas.

Japan, Booking Ban, U-turn
In a rapid u-turn, Japan has dropped its ban on new incoming flight bookings. Photo: Getty Images

Around the world, travel restrictions have generally been dropping, allowing for more unrestricted travel for many passengers. However, in the past week, several restrictions have been sprung back up as governments worldwide look to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. This has led to the UK bringing back PCR tests for all, for example.

Japan’s rapid restrictions u-turn

According to Bloomberg, Japan has dropped its plans to stop passengers from making new bookings to travel to the country before the end of the year. AP News reported that the country’s transport ministry had enacted the u-turn in response to intense criticism over the ban.

The retraction of the ban is intended to allow Japanese citizens to travel back to the country if required, as yesterday’s policy didn’t consider the needs of the country’s citizens. The country’s Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, commented,

“I have instructed the transport ministry to fully pay attention to the needs of Japanese citizens to return home.”

Japan, Booking Ban, U-turn
Japan’s Prime Minister instructed the transport ministry to take note of the needs of Japanese citizens. Photo: Getty Images

Not opening the flood gates

Japan isn’t opening the flood gates to travel with its new policy. A daily limit of 3,500 incoming passengers will continue to apply. It will be possible for Japanese citizens, permanent residents, and a limited number of other individuals to book travel to the country on any day where this cap has not yet been met.

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Most foreigners are still unable to fly to Japan. The country had brought its new booking cap in as a response to worry over the new Omicron COVID-19 variant discovered by South Africa last week. The rules brought in by Japan still weren’t as strict as those enacted by other countries. Both Israel and Morocco banned all incoming travel to the country, which led to the postponement of Royal Air Maroc’s inaugural flight between the two nations.

Arrivals will continue to be capped at 3,500 a day. Photo: Getty Images

So far, two cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed in the Asian country. At the weekend, a diplomat in his 30s who had traveled from Namibia was confirmed to be infected with the variant. Meanwhile, the country identified a second case yesterday. This was confirmed in a man who had traveled to the country from Peru on Saturday. The two individuals have not had contact, pointing to both cases being imported via air travel.

Do you think Japan was right to make such a u-turn on its new booking ban? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!