[FOUNTAIN]Shuttling hither and yonThe word “shuttle” is on Koreans’ tongues again because the leaders of Japan and Korea agreed to open air transportation links between Haneda Airport near Tokyo and Seoul’s Gimpo Airport.
The word initially referred to a part of a weaving loom that travels back and forth from left to right to insert threads between the longitudinally-spaced threads. That back-and-forth movement gave rise to the word’s usage as a verb meaning to move back and forth between two points.
As transportation systems developed, the word was used to describe a carrier ― bus, train or aircraft ― that continuously moves between two nearby destinations.
Shuttle buses are sometimes used to connect outlying areas to transportation hubs, and when the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration developed the "space shuttle," the name was to emphasize that the craft could be used repeatedly. And the United States also developed the concept of aircraft shuttles. In the 1960s, shuttles were begun at New York, Washington D.C. and Boston. At first, they did not have even flight numbers; they left every hour. If there were too many passengers, airlines rolled out a second aircraft immediately. The convenience of a shuttle was in its flexibility ― no reservations required.
Shuttle aircraft can be operated between different countries if the governments agree. The model is found in Canada and United States, between neighboring cities like Seattle and Vancouver, for example, or between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
But there is a problem in international flights stemming from the need for border formalities at the destination. If a passenger has to wait in an endless line in front of an immigration officer’s booth, the convenience of a shuttle flight is diminished.
One solution is a preclearance system. The receiving government dispatches its officials to the departure airport in the other country, making it possible for passengers to clear outbound and inbound customs and immigration at the same time. At the arrival airport, visitors can get their luggage immediately. Such preliminary inspections were introduced in 1974 by Canada and the United States.
Nearly 8 million passengers traveled last year between Korea and Japan. If a Gimpo-Haneda line opens, the number will soar.
by Nahm Yoon-ho
The writer is a deputy director of policy planning team of the JoongAng Ilbo.