Photo/IllutrationThe Asahi Shimbun

In a move away from the trend toward ever stricter security measures, some Japanese airports may start to allow passengers to bring family, friends and colleagues to the boarding gate to see them off on domestic flights.

The change could take effect by the end of March, sources said.

Deregulation of the current setup is expected to lead to greater sales of souvenirs and other goods from shops in airports’ secure areas, as well as restaurants, where entry is currently strictly restricted to passengers with an outbound boarding pass.

The transport ministry believes that relaxing the rules for domestic terminals only is feasible because ensuring security at them is relatively easy compared with at international terminals, the sources said.

Although the ministry is set to revise the related regulations, it is up to each airport to decide whether to allow visitors entry to the secure area.

If an airport decides to change its rules, people without tickets will be required to clear security checks as stringent as those for passengers.

Some airports may not be keen on the idea, however. Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, the busiest hub for domestic flights in Japan, may find it impossible to deal with additional crowds even after the deregulation is implemented, according to the sources.

But some regional airports will likely hail the rule change.

The operator of Sendai Airport in Miyagi Prefecture has called on the government to relax the rules since the airport was privatized in July 2016.

The government, in response, included the possible deregulation in its economic growth strategy approved by the Cabinet in June.

The operator, Sendai International Airport Co., is considering expanding the number of shops and a change in the layout in the secure area in anticipation of increased demands for shopping, drinking and eating there.

“Passengers can spend their time with people who came to see them off until right before boarding,” said Hiroshi Tsuchida, who heads the company’s business planning section. “We want to improve the satisfaction of people waiting in the secure area, which has been often described as boring.”

But allowing airport visitors to enter the secure area could lead to congestion and confusion.

Airports will be asked to set up separate security checkpoints and exits for non-ticketed customers, the sources said.

The ministry is looking into what extent airports will be required to make changes to accommodate such facilities under the regulations.

The move to privatization of airports is gathering momentum, and some of them may move swiftly to take advantage of the revised rule.

Ten more airports, including seven in Hokkaido, are expected to become privately run within several years, in addition to Sendai Airport, Kansai International Airport and Osaka Airport.