Incheon Int¡¯l Airport Takes Wing as a Hub Port

Ranks 2nd in the world in terms of cargo handling volume and chalks up a passenger transfer rate of 18.5 percent








Incheon International Airport, marking the ninth anniversary of its debut, is picking up momentum to establish itself as a hub port of Northeast Asia. A Japanese delegation headed by Seiji Maehara, minister of Japan¡¯s Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, arrived at the airport in a Korean Air (KAL) flight from Washington on May 2. Four hours later they transferred to a KAL flight to Vietnam.
Unlike ordinary transfer passengers, the Japanese delegation apparently chose to transfer at Incheon International Airport to take a look into the airport¡¯s potential rise as a hub port of Northeast Asia, even though Japan has flight routes from Japan to Vietnam. Escorted by officials of the Incheon International Airport Corp. (IIAC), the Japanese slipped through the customs, immigration and quarantine areas and got a briefing on the IIAC¡¯s development strategies. In particular, they looked around the passenger terminal and showed a keen interest in the airport¡¯s transfer process and transfer facilities.
Narita International Airport of Japan may be concerned with Incheon International Airport¡¯s stellar achievement in attracting transfer passengers in recent years.
In reality, figures made available by IIAC indicate that the number of transfer passengers at the airport soared from 3.05 million in 2005 to 3.36 million in 2006, 3.79 million in 2007, 4.42 million in 2008 and 5.06 million in 2009. Above all, the airport logged a transfer rate in a range of 11 percent to 12 percent until 2008, but it saw the figure surge to 18.5 percent.
IIAC¡¯s RISE ¡ª Incheon International Airport has come from strength to strength to grow into a global leader after overcoming hardships since its opening.
Despite an initial forecast that the airport would face a chronic loss since it raised 5.6 trillion won, 60 percent of the cost for the construction of the airport, instead of using state coffers, the airport has fared well. It posted an average of 160 billion won in net profit during the period between 2004 and 2009. In particular, the airport raked in approximately 1 trillion won in sales each for 2008 and 2009.
On top of a rise in passenger transportation, the airport accounted for 72 percent of inbound and outbound travelers to and from Korea and 24 percent of Korea¡¯s total exports and imports to become the biggest gateway to Korea and the nation¡¯s biggest frontline exporting base.
Incheon International Airport proved the world¡¯s top rate precision and aviation safety levels as it succeeded in continuing to operate flight safety equipment without a hitch since its opening.
The airport¡¯s free trade zone that opened in 2002 is now occupied 73 percent by logistics service providers. The airport has established itself as a hub port of Northeast Asia as nearly half of the freight cargoes it handles are transshipment.
The airport handled 1.7 million tons of freight in 2002, the year after its opening, and saw its freight handling capacity climb to 2.55 million tons in 2007 with an average growth rate of 5.5 percent to rank second in the world in terms of cargo handling volumes. It has maintained a transshipment rate of 50 percent to play a role as a logistics hub.
In 2008, the airport chalked up a negative growth rate in terms of passenger and cargo handling volumes due to the effects of the global financial crisis, but the government and IIAC¡¯s strategies to make the airport a hub port has paid off. The airport saw its annual transfer passengers surpassing the 5 million mark in 2009 for the first time since its opening to register a passenger transfer rate of 18.5 percent and play a foundation for becoming a hub port.
On top of its external growth, the airport has gained global recognition in providing services. The airport won the Best Airport Worldwide Award, a kind of overall ranking of a survey of airport services conducted by the Airport Council International (ACI) last year for the fifth straight year. The awards were presented according to the results of the ¡°Airport Service Quality¡± monitoring survey of about 1,700 airports around the world.
The airport also snatched the Best Airport in the World from the world¡¯s two biggest travel magazines ¡ª Business Traveler and Global Traveler ¡ª while it became the winner of the Airport of the Year from Skytrax, a global airport service research agency.
Incheon International Airport has become a subject of envy as 4,300 people from around the world have visited the airport to look into its construction and operation. Making the most of its global recognition, the airport is striving to expand its horizons to overseas markets. The airport was awarded with a $31.5 million project to provide an operation consulting service to Irbil International Airport in Iraq in February 2009 and it won an order to provide consulting service on the establishment of a master plan to Khabarovsk Airport in Russia last December. IIAC is now stepping on the gas to enter markets in China, Russia and countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
IIAC is not resting on its laurels. The corporation has declared its mid- and long-term management strategy, dubbed ¡°Global IIAC 2015,¡± with the goal of making a leap forward as a world-class airport company. It is striving to implement its top four strategic tasks ¡ª stepping up its competitiveness as a hub port, building infrastructure for future growth, enhancing safety and efficiency and advancing management systems. nw

(photo from left) Incheon International Airport Corp. (IIAC) President & CEO Lee Chae-wook. An aerial view of the sprawling Incheon International Airport, which is emerging as a hub port of Northeast Asia. (Inset) IIAC President Lee raises his hands after receiving the ¡°Best Airport Worldwide¡± award from the Airports Council International for the fifth time in a row in Hainan, China on May 13.

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