Flights to Ishigaki

Ishigaki's New Airport Now Open

Ishigaki's new airport finally opened on March the 7th, 2013. It is located to the north of Shiraho, on Ishigaki's east coast, making it less convenient for travelers heading for the town center or the outer island ferry terminal - the old airport was just a 2 (~3.2km) from the town center, whereas the new airport is located 10 miles (16km) away. However, it represents a huge upgrade, having a modern terminal, and a longer runway than that of the previous airport.

Discount Air Tickets to Ishigaki

Despite the fact that domestic air fares in Japan are relatively expensive, there are four ways in which you can enjoy huge savings on domestic flights to Ishigaki and other destinations, although most of these offers only apply to those of you who reside outside of Japan.
  • oneworld® Visit Japan. oneworld's Visit Japan (Yokoso) campaign offers international travellers the opportunity to purchase massively discounted domestic air tickets to over 40 cities in Japan, with Ishigaki being one of the destinations. The cost of the flight is fixed irrespective of the destination, making flights to Ishigaki airport incredibly good value with the price being about 20% of what would normally be charged for a ticked from Tokyo to Ishigaki. These tickets are only offered to travellers who reside outside of Japan and who hold a return ticket to with a carrier that is a member of the oneworld group. It should be noted that there are blackout periods when these tickets can not be used. Internal flights are operated by JAL / JTA. Futher details can be found here. Click here for a list of oneworld member airlines.
  • Star Alliance Japan Pass. This is very similar to the oneworld pass, but is limited to Star Alliance airline members. Internal flights are operated by ANA. Note that the blackout periods may differ to those of oneworld's pass. Further details can be found here. Click here for a list of Star Alliance member airlines.
  • Visit Japan Pass. This is the best option if you are planning to travel to Japan by an airline which is neither a member of Star Alliance, or oneworld. It is slightly more expensive, and the blackout periods are longer, but it still represents fantastic value for money. All internal flights are operated by ANA. Further details can be found  here.
  • Advance Tickets: These can be purchased by anybody irrespective of their country of residence. While they don't offer the extreme discounts of the above two options the rates are extremely reasonable with discount rates of around 50% being applied to many tickets purchased over a month in advance. Note however, that these are typically available via domestic travel agents and Japanese websites - hence there are certain practical obstacles which may make purchasing a ticket difficult.

Case Study - Richard's experience of using oneworld's Visit Japan pass

I decided to visit Japan for a holiday in December 2012, having moved back to the UK in 2011. The first thing that occurred to me was that I could save some money by following the advice which I'd been providing on my own website for many years. Sure enough the process worked, and it saved me a small fortune. What follows is a brief description of the process:

  • Firstly, I rang up Japan Airline's London office to check domestic flight availablity (this step was important as my booking was made just a week before travel, and I didn't want to discover that all domestic flights were full after booking my international ticket). I was informed that the blackout period ran from the 23rd of December 2012 to the 5th of January 2013, inclusive, but some seats were available outside these dates. I also made sure that I could book the domenstic flights with them even if I booked my international flight with another oneworld carrier. They confirmed that this wouldn't be a problem, as long as I had a ticket number.
  • I booked a ticket with British Airways as they are a member of oneworld and they still had seats available on my preferred dates.
  • I phoned JAL's office again with my ticket number, at which point they could see my booking. They provisionally reserved seats on the dates of my chosing, but held of issuing an e-ticket until they'd received proof that I resided outside Japan.
  • I emailed their office a photocopy of my drivers licence, which they accepted as proof that I resided in England. They took full payment for the flights via credit card over the phone, and then promptly issued me with an e-ticket.

This may all sound like hassle, but the process saved me at least £500.00, and for around 1 hour's worth of effort, I think it represented a good investment of my free time.

I believe that BA could have issued the e-ticket too, but I'd always received excellent customer service when dealing with JAL, and given that they were the domestic carrier, I felt more confident contacting them directly. Needless to say I experienced no problems when using the e-ticket in Japan, and it allowed me to make brief stop-offs in Tokyo on my way to and from Ishigaki. Next time I may buy more domestic flights with this offer (currently the limit is 5), which would allow me to visit other destinations before heading back to Tokyo. It truly represents excellent value, but do check the availablity of domestic flights before you book your international flight.

Getting to Town by Bus or Taxi

The airport will be well-connected with the rest of the island by both bus and taxi routes. The page linked to below provides details of bus connections between the airport and the city, in addition to destinations such as Kabira bay.

Airport Bus Service

Carriers

With the exception of some charter flights from Taiwan there are no direct international flights to Ishigaki. However, the airport is well connected with other major cities in Japan in addition to Naha, the capital of Okinawa. The two main carriers which connect to Ishigaki are ANA and JTA, which is part of the JAL group. In addition Ryuukyuu Air fly smaller aircraft which connect travellers with many islands throughout the Okinawa prefecture.
 
Peach Airlines, a budget carrier, will soon be making direct flights from Osaka to Ishigaki. The service starts on June 14th 2013. Advertised tickets for a single ticket range from under 7000 Yen. Note that as is often the case with budget carriers, additional charges for hold baggage may apply.

Old Airport

Regular travellers two and from the island said a fond farewell to Ishigaki's original airport, which was based near the city centre in Maezato, on the 7th of March 2013. The length of its runway limited the size of aircraft which it could host, with most planes having to depart with little fuel on board just to ensure that they could safely take off before the end of the runway (hence why all return flights to the mainland involved a brief stop-off at either Miyakojima, or Naha. This should be available for use by 2012 and it is hoped that it will expand the island's tourism business in addition to reducing noise pollution in the Maezato area.
ANA flight landing at Ishigaki airport
 
Although there is little doubt that the new airport was required, some may miss the convenience of the old one, plus, the opportunity to view Boeing 737s skirting across rooftops in the Maezato area as they made their final approach was somewhat of a spectacle.
 
New Airport Location


View Practical Info in a larger map

View page in Japanese