A new ter­mi­nal at Seoul’s In­cheon air­port aims to ease the bot­tle­neck

Pas­sen­ger num­bers at Seoul’s In­cheon In­ter­na­tional air­port have boomed in re­cent years. The new Ter­mi­nal 2 eases the bur­den

Business Traveller - - CONTENTS - WORDS CRAIG BRIGHT

Stand­ing calmly in a shuffling queue at In­cheon In­ter­na­tional air­port, the words “emer­gency sta­tus” hardly spring to mind. Yet for Seoul’s pri­mary air­port, these were pre­cisely the words its pres­i­dent and CEO, Il-Young Chung, used to de­scribe the air­port’s ca­pac­ity is­sues as it at­tempted to process mil­lions more pas­sen­gers than it had the ca­pac­ity to han­dle. While provoca­tive, Chung’s words were a fair assess­ment of the sta­tus of the air­port back in 2017. In the 17 years since it opened, In­cheon has man­aged to hit its orig­i­nal 54 mil­lion pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity and then some. In 2016 it pro­cessed a to­tal of 57.7 mil­lion trav­ellers, with this in­creas­ing to 62 mil­lion the fol­low­ing year, a jump of 7.5 per cent, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try body Air­ports Coun­cil In­ter­na­tional (ACI). In con­trast, Bei­jing Cap­i­tal In­ter­na­tional air­port, the busiest in Asia-Pa­cific and sec­ond busiest in the world, grew just 1.5 per cent in that same pe­riod. The air­port’s growth has been such that In­cheon has been climb­ing ACI’s ranks of the world’s busiest air­ports, tak­ing the num­ber 19 spot in 2017 – up from 20th in 2016 and 22nd in 2015.

It’s lit­tle won­der that the de­vel­op­ment of the air­port’s new Ter­mi­nal 2 build­ing, which opened in Jan­uary this year, had for a long time been at the fore­front of In­cheon In­ter­na­tional Air­port Cor­po­ra­tion’s list of pri­or­i­ties.

Chung told Busi­ness Trav­eller be­fore the new ter­mi­nal build­ing had opened its doors that “a lot of the staff [were] work­ing un­der emer­gency sta­tus.” Now that it has opened, Ter­mi­nal 2 has added some 18 mil­lion pas­sen­gers to the air­port’s over­all han­dling ca­pac­ity, bring­ing the to­tal to 72 mil­lion across its two ter­mi­nals and con­course, and hope­fully re­duced the stress on those work­ing there, and per­haps pas­sen­gers too.

Ac­cord­ing to Chung, In­cheon’s growth has been driven by a num­ber of fac­tors. “We’re see­ing an in­crease in travel from [South] 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 US car­rier Delta, which has po­si­tioned Seoul as one of its two ma­jor hubs in Asia-Pa­cific along­side Tokyo Narita. The air­line’s new­est air­craft, the Air­bus A350-900, now flies both of its routes be­tween Seoul and De­troit and At­lanta (the lat­ter route hav­ing been launched in June 2017). Mean­while next year, it plans to be­gin a new →

non­stop ser­vice be­tween Seoul and the Mid­west­ern twin cities of Min­neapo­lis-St Paul.

Much of Delta’s fo­cus on In­cheon has been the re­sult of the launch of its joint-ven­ture agree­ment with Korean Air in April this year. Un­der the agree­ment, both air­lines of­fer full re­cip­ro­cal code­shar­ing across each oth­ers’ net­works, pro­vid­ing trav­ellers with ac­cess to more than 290 destinations in the Amer­i­cas and in ex­cess of 80 in Asia.

“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 when the two car­ri­ers ini­tially an­nounced the agree­ment.


The ter­mi­nal is at the heart of the air­port’s “3 Phase Con­struc­tion Project”, which in­cludes a new pas­sen­ger ter­mi­nal, a pas­sen­ger and cargo apron, as well as con­nect­ing trans­port fa­cil­i­ties. To date, the air­port has poured ap­prox­i­mately 5 tril­lion won (£3.4 bil­lion) into the third phase project since 2009 – it’s get­ting no fund­ing from the gov­ern­ment – with a fur­ther 4 tril­lion won (£2.7 bil­lion) ex­pected for ad­di­tional ex­pan­sion plans.

Since the open­ing of the sec­ond ter­mi­nal, a num­ber of air­lines have re­lo­cated to the new fa­cil­ity in­clud­ing Skyteam mem­bers Korean Air, Delta, Air France and KLM, which moved to Ter­mi­nal 2 back in Jan­uary. Korean Air has even set up ded­i­cated coun­ters for trav­ellers go­ing to the US and Guam in or­der to com­ply with height­ened se­cu­rity mea­sures im­ple­mented by the US gov­ern­ment.

Car­ri­ers from other al­liances, mean­while, have re­mained in Ter­mi­nal 1, as have check-in desks for low-cost car­ri­ers fly­ing from T1’s Con­course A. Pas­sen­gers can trans­fer be­tween the two main ter­mi­nals in about 15 to 18 min­utes us­ing the shut­tle trains that go via the con­course.

For trav­ellers with a bit of time to spare, Ter­mi­nal 2 has plenty of lounges. Korean Air has two KAL Lounges – one near gate 249 and an­other near gate 253 – while in­de­pen­dent lounges in­clud­ing the L Lounge, Matina Lounge and SPC Lounge are avail­able for Pri­or­ity Pass mem­bers. The ter­mi­nal also of­fers a num­ber of shower rooms and spas, along with two “dig­i­tal gyms”, of­fer­ing space for ex­er­cis­ing us­ing fit­ness de­vices and apps, a tran­sit ho­tel at­tached to the Matina Lounge, a cap­sule ho­tel and a nap zone.

One of the key fea­tures of Ter­mi­nal

2 is a fo­cus on lead­ing in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy (ICT), with modern sys­tems such as au­to­mated pass­port con­trol sys­tems. “We’re util­is­ing 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.” From a con­sumer stand­point, the air­port’s mo­bile app uses aug­mented real­ity to as­sist trav­ellers with wayfind­ing, and In­cheon air­port has even be­gun em­ploy­ing guide and clean­ing ro­bots. “What’s re­ally at the core is the ‘Fourth In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion’,” says Chung. “Util­is­ing these tech­nolo­gies, we want to build an air­port that is con­ve­nient, ef­fi­cient and safe, and where pas­sen­gers can be the own­ers of the air­port.” →

In­cheon has de­vel­oped a close re­la­tion­ship with Delta, which has po­si­tioned Seoul as a ma­jor hub

While cut­ting-edge bio­met­ric se­cu­rity-screen­ing tech­nol­ogy, such as the fa­cial-recog­ni­tion soft­ware be­ing im­ple­mented at Changi In­ter­na­tional air­port’s new­est Ter­mi­nal 4 build­ing, is also avail­able at In­cheon, it is largely re­stricted to Korean pass­port hold­ers.

Ter­mi­nal 2 also of­fers a va­ri­ety of food and bev­er­age out­lets, many of which fo­cus on Korean cui­sine from dif­fer­ent re­gions of the coun­try. Chung says that the idea for a cos­metic-surgery fa­cil­ity right in the new ter­mi­nal build­ing has even been floated, though as yet no such of­fer­ing ap­pears to have opened up.

On the duty-free side the new ter­mi­nal fea­tures out­lets from Lotte, The Shilla, Shin­segae, City Duty Free and SM, along with nu­mer­ous high-end brands rang­ing from Longchamp and Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo to Ri­mowa and Mont­blanc.


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

This is what an ad­di­tional four tril­lion won (£2.8 bil­lion) ex­pan­sion plan aims to tackle. Plan­ning and de­sign for this fourth phase, which will com­prise the north­east­ern part of the new H-shaped ter­mi­nal build­ing, be­gan in May last year with con­struc­tion ex­pected to be­gin at the end of 2018. It is 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. Back in April 2017, 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 casino re­sort com­pany Mo­he­gan Sun and Korean chem­i­cals man­u­fac­turer KCC. Be­ing built at a cost of US$5 bil­lion, the re­sort will be lo­cated on Yeongjong 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 cen­tre,” 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, such that tran­sit pas­sen­gers are tempted to spend four hours or even up to a whole day at the air­port.

As for fur­ther ex­pan­sions or even a third ter­mi­nal, Chung says these could also be on 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.”

“We want to build an air­port that is con­ve­nient, ef­fi­cient and safe”

The land­side part of In­cheon’s new Ter­mi­nal 2 houses many restau­rants and shops

The new de­par­ture halls at In­cheon’s Ter­mi­nal 2 have greatly re­duced con­ges­tion

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