Take Offs & Land­ings

In­cheon Air­port’s new Ter­mi­nal 2 is open for busi­ness, but there are still chal­lenges ahead for this grow­ing hub

Business Traveler (USA) - - CONTENTS - By Craig Bright

Bat­tling the Bot­tle­neck – In­cheon’s new Ter­mi­nal 2 opens for busi­ness, plus new route news

Stand­ing calmly in a shuf­fling queue at In­cheon Air­port, the words“emer­gency sta­tus”hardly jump to mind.Yet for Seoul’s pri­mary air­port, these are pre­cisely the words used by its pres­i­dent and CEO, Il-Young Chung, as the air­port at­tempts to process mil­lions more pas­sen­gers than it has the ca­pac­ity to han­dle.

While provoca­tive, Chung’s words were a fair as­sess­ment of the sta­tus of the air­port prior to its re­cent ex­pan­sion. In the 16 years since it opened, In­cheon has man­aged to hit its 54 mil­lion-pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity and then some. Last year it pro­cessed a to­tal of 62.2 mil­lion trav­el­ers, and this year’s fig­ure looks like it will be even higher.

It’s lit­tle won­der that the de­vel­op­ment of the air­port’s new Ter­mi­nal 2 build­ing which opened in Jan­uary was at the fore­front of In­cheon In­ter­na­tional Air­port Cor­po­ra­tion’s list of pri­or­i­ties. Re­cent spikes in num­bers at In­cheon Air­port have has­tened this need.

In 2016, the air­port’s pas­sen­ger traf­fic jumped a mas­sive 17 per­cent com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year (by com­par­i­son, Bei­jing Cap­i­tal In­ter­na­tional Air­port, the busiest in Asia-Pa­cific, grew just 2.6 per­cent), and in 2017 In­cheon saw an­other 7.5 per­cent added to the pas­sen­ger count. The air­port’s growth has been such that Air­ports Coun­cil In­ter­na­tional ranked it the world’s 19th busiest air­port in 2017 – up from 29th in 2012, just five years ago.“We didn’t ex­pect such a fast in­crease in pas­sen­ger num­bers in the past,”says Chung.

Now that it’s open, Ter­mi­nal 2 will re­lieve some of the pres­sure – for the fore­see­able fu­ture. The new fa­cil­ity is de­signed to add 18 mil­lion pas­sen­gers to the air­port’s over­all han­dling ca­pac­ity, bring­ing the to­tal to 72 mil­lion.

Over­ca­pac­ity is not an is­sue faced by In­cheon Air­port alone. Speak­ing about air­ports through­out the re­gion, As­so­ci­a­tion of Asia Pa­cific Air­lines di­rec­tor gen­eral, Andrew Herd­man, notes that de­spite far-sighted in­vest­ment by ma­jor air­ports, pas­sen­ger growth pro­jec­tions that were once seen as“op­ti­mistic” have turned out to be true.

“Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the in­fra­struc­ture ca­pac­ity has just about kept pace, but you can point to areas where it’s been late,”he says.“The prob­lem is that once con­ges­tion be­comes ap­par­ent, you see de­graded ser­vice lev­els, on-time per­for­mance suf­fers, and flights can’t op­er­ate at peak times of day, so they get pushed to less con­ve­nient times. If you’re not care­ful, then it’s the trav­el­ing pub­lic that’s pay­ing the price.”

Ac­cord­ing to Chung, the growth of pas­sen­gers at In­cheon is be­ing driven by a num­ber of fac­tors.“We’re see­ing an in­crease in travel from Korean cit­i­zens, and as our econ­omy de­vel­ops we ex­pect more busi­ness pas­sen­gers from abroad, as well as within Korea. A lot of LCCs are also serv­ing new routes – they’re very ac­tive in do­ing so – and we are at­tract­ing more for­eign car­ri­ers to serve our air­port.”

In par­tic­u­lar, In­cheon has de­vel­oped a close re­la­tion­ship with Delta Air Lines, which has been fo­cus­ing on Seoul as an Asia-Pa­cific des­ti­na­tion. Last year, Delta an­nounced it would be de­ploy­ing its new A350 on two Seoul routes, Detroit and At­lanta. More re­cently the US car­rier and Korean Air an­nounced the launch of a new joint ven­ture that the air­lines say will cre­ate one of the most com­pre­hen­sive route net­works in the transpa­cific mar­ket, with more than 290 des­ti­na­tions in the Amer­i­cas and more than 80 in Asia.

The deal will op­ti­mize sched­ules, im­prove loyalty pro­gram ben­e­fits, in­te­grate IT sys­tems and of­fer co-lo­ca­tion at key hubs. Ear­lier this year, Delta and Korean Air co- lo­cated into the new Ter­mi­nal 2 at Seoul’s In­cheon In­ter­na­tional Air­port, sub­stan­tially re­duc­ing con­nect­ing times.

“With this agree­ment, we will re­in­force In­cheon Air­port’s po­si­tion as a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional hub in North­east Asia and sup­port the growth of Korea’s avi­a­tion in­dus­try,”Delta’s CEO, Ed Bas­tian, said at the time of the agree­ment.

Ter­mi­nal 2: Take a Look

The new ter­mi­nal is at the heart of the air­port’ s“Three Phase Con­struc­tion Project ,” in­clud­ing a new pas­sen­ger ter­mi­nal, a pas­sen­ger and cargo apron, as well as con­nect­ing trans­port fa­cil­i­ties. To date, the air­port has poured ap­prox­i­mately 5 tril­lion ($4.4 bil­lion) into the third phase project since 2009 – it’s get­ting no fund­ing from the govern­ment – with a fur­ther 4 tril­lion ($3.5 bil­lion) ex­pected for ad­di­tional ex­pan­sion plans.

With the sec­ond ter­mi­nal on line, the air­port is di­vid­ing air­lines across the ter­mi­nals ac­cord­ing to al­liance. Star Al­liance air­lines re­main in Ter­mi­nal 1, as will check-in desks for low-cost car­ri­ers fly­ing from the Con­course. Skyteam mem­ber air­lines – in­clud­ing flag car­rier Korean Air, Air France, KLM and Delta Air Lines – are shift­ing

their op­er­a­tions over to the new ter­mi­nal. Trans­port be­tween the two main ter­mi­nals is pro­vided by a shut­tle, along with road ac­cess di­rectly to the sec­ond ter­mi­nal.

One of the key fea­tures is the fo­cus on lead­ing in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy (ICT), with mod­ern sys­tems such as au­to­mated pass­port con­trol sys­tems.“We’re uti­liz­ing big data,”Chung says. “We need to have an in­tel­li­gent system in or­der to run the air­port more ef­fi­ciently. In terms of the check-in process and im­mi­gra­tion at de­par­ture and ar­rival, we have to make sure the pas­sen­gers are dis­trib­uted evenly to re­duce con­ges­tion.”

Mean­while, pas­sen­gers are get­ting to know guide and clean­ing ro­bots, and vir­tual and aug­mented re­al­ity experiences are be­ing in­tro­duced in the tran­sit re­gions of the new ter­mi­nal.“What’s re­ally at the core is the‘ Fourth In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion ’,” says Chung.“Uti­liz­ing these tech­nolo­gies, we want to build an air­port that is con­ve­nient, ef­fi­cient and safe, and where pas­sen­gers can be the own­ers of the air­port.” How­ever, the cut­ting-edge bio­met­ric screen­ing tech­nolo­gies that are in­creas­ingly be­ing in­tro­duced at other air­ports – such as fa­cial recog­ni­tion soft­ware – will not be em­ployed yet.

Ter­mi­nal 2 is also get­ting con­sumer­fo­cused fea­tures such as a va­ri­ety of F&B out­lets of­fer­ing Korean cui­sine from dif­fer­ent re­gions across the coun­try, and even a cos­metic surgery fa­cil­ity.

Tran­sit ameni­ties are de­signed to be “green and ecofriendly,” and In­cheon Air­port’s duty free, which read­ers of Busi­ness Trav­eler con­sis­tently vote the“Best Duty Free in the World”in our an­nual Best in Busi­ness Travel Awards, will also see fur­ther im­prove­ments at the new ter­mi­nal.

Plan­ning for the Fu­ture

Yet even with the completion of its third phase project, In­cheon Air­port’s ca­pac­ity is­sues won’t be over. Ter­mi­nal 2’s space for the ad­di­tional 18 mil­lion cus­tomers will pro­vide breath­ing room for three years, but pas­sen­ger lev­els are again ex­pected to out­strip ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture by 2020.

This is what the ad­di­tional 4 mil­lion ex­pan­sion plan aims to tackle. Plan­ning and de­sign for this fourth phase, which will en­com­pass the north­east­ern­most part of the H-shaped ter­mi­nal build­ing, be­gan in 2017 and con­struc­tion is ex­pected to be­gin at the end of 2018. These en­hance­ments are sched­uled for completion by 2023, by which point the air­port will be able to han­dle 100 mil­lion pas­sen­gers an­nu­ally.

Aside from meet­ing im­me­di­ate ca­pac­ity de­mands, the plan also en­com­passes en­ter­tain­ment and leisure fa­cil­i­ties. Last year, the new Par­adise City in­te­grated re­sort and casino opened its doors close to the Ter­mi­nal 1 build­ing. A new project, the In­spire In­te­grated Re­sort, is also on the way, part of a col­lab­o­ra­tion with US re­sort casino com­pany Mo­he­gan Sun and Korean chem­i­cals man­u­fac­turer KCC. Be­ing built at a cost of $5 bil­lion, the re­sort will be lo­cated onYeongjong Island near the air­port and is due to open in 2020. A new golf course – the air­port’s sec­ond on site – is also in the pipe­line and sim­i­larly has a 2020 open­ing date.

“What’s more im­por­tant for us is to ex­pand fur­ther and ac­tu­ally build an‘Air City’ with the air­port at its cen­ter,”says Chung. “It will in­clude ho­tels, re­sorts, casi­nos and even cater­ing, and we have plans for that up to 2030.”Chung adds that the main goal of the air­port is to make it fun for pas­sen­gers as well as con­ve­nient, so tran­sit pas­sen­gers could spend four hours or up to a whole day at the air­port.

As for fur­ther ex­pan­sions or even a third ter­mi­nal, Chung says these could also be in the cards, though that de­pends on how growth pro­jec­tions play out. De­spite the air­port’s boom­ing growth, cur­rent lev­els aren’t ex­pected to con­tinue at quite the same rate over the long term.“We will think about the fifth phase, or per­haps a new ter­mi­nal,”he says,“but that would have to de­pend on whether we ac­tu­ally need to ex­pand fur­ther and what our de­mand pro­jec­tions are.” BT

growth pro­jec­tions that were once seen as “op­ti­mistic” have turned out to be true

Above: Green­ery in­side T2’s Ar­rival Hall

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