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Airlines with Japan destinations anxiously watch radiation levels – and ticket sales

Airlines operating flights to Japan are balancing concerns about their ability to keep to their schedules, keep their crew safe from radiation, and avoid losing too much money.

By Correspondent / March 17, 2011

Evacuees, who are afraid of possible a nuclear power plant meltdown in Fukushima Prefecture, and vacationers queue up to check in their flights at Narita International airport on Thursday, March 17, in Narita, Japan.

Eugene Hoshiko/AP

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Thousands of travelers jammed Tokyo's Narita International Airport again Thursday in attempt to flee Japan amid a worsening nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant.

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The exodus – along with concerns about levels of radiation reaching Tokyo – has caused many airlines to rethink their Tokyo routes and schedules. And the entire airline industry seems to be anxiously eyeing the demand for flights to the regional hub.

According to a statement on its website, German airline Lufthansa is rerouting all of its Tokyo-bound flights to Osaka and Nagoya, both south of Tokyo, at least until Monday, March 21. Dutch airline KLM followed suit.

Air France, Swiss Air, and British Airways are among the airlines continuing their service to Tokyo, but they are including stopovers in other Asian cities so that their flight crew can switch over there instead of spending a night in Tokyo, according to their websites.

According to Bloomberg, Cathay Pacific Airways, Asia's third-largest airline, reported that they are seeing climbing numbers of vacant seats on their Japan-bound flights but mostly full flights out of Japan. Its website is reporting some delays in the flight schedule, but no reroutings or additional stopovers. It is also offering special one-way fares from Japan.

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