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Top 10 Asia Pacific Airports

A look at the leading airports in the Asia Pacific region.
Asian airports, SPECIAL REPORTS, Top 10...

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With several Middle East airlines flying to the Asia Pacific region, Arabian Supply Chain looks at ten of the continent's leading airports in 2008/9, in no particular order. Including entries from Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Thailand.

Singapore Changi International Airport

Despite the global economic slowdown, Singapore Changi Airport handled a total of 37.7 million passenger movements in 2008, marking an increase of 2.7% from 2007.

Among the top 15 markets by passenger traffic, both regional and long-haul sectors registered growth. In the region, the sectors of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, grew 6.5%, 9.4%, 11.9% and 19.4% respectively, while the long-haul sectors of Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom grew 5.6%, 5% and 7%. Declines of 10.9% and 5.2% were registered in passenger traffic from Thailand and China.

The financial tsunami left its mark in the last four months of 2008. Passenger traffic declined in September, November and December due to negative sentiment and decreased travel demand. The impact of the economic crisis was more pronounced on the cargo front, where, compared to 2007, airfreight movements dipped 2% to register 1.86 million tonnes in 2008.

In 2008, Changi Airport continued to win awards including the Best Airport in the World award by Business Traveller (UK), which Changi has won 21 consecutive times, the Best Airport Worldwide and Best Airport in Asia awards from Business Traveller Germany, the Best International Airport award by Conde Nast Traveler and the World's Leading Eco-friendly Airport award by World Travel Awards. The total of 29 awards in 2008 takes the total number of awards Changi has won to more than 300.

Changi Airport is served by 87 scheduled airlines operating more than 4770 weekly scheduled flights to 197 cities in 60 countries.

Hong Kong International Airport

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) reported a 1.7% increase in passenger throughput and a 3.1% decline in cargo traffic in 2008 as compared to 2007, reaching 48.6 million and 3.6 million tonnes, respectively. Air traffic movements grew 2.0% to 301,285.

Passenger traffic maintained steady growth in the first seven months of 2008, registering a 6% rise over same period in 2007. However, it saw a 4% drop over the last five months of 2008 which was partly due to the tightening of Mainland visa applications for foreign tourists following the enhanced security requirements for the Beijing Olympics. But more importantly, the financial tsunami and subsequent economic downturn have caused companies to cut costs by curbing business trips and holidaymakers to reduce travel amid rising uncertainties.

The global financial turmoil and the resultant shrinkage in foreign trade also dealt a heavy blow to demand for freight services, and air cargo was no exception. In December, HKIA saw cargo throughput plunge by 28.2% to 243,000 tonnes – the largest single-month drop since the airport's opening in 1998.

December's passenger traffic fell 5.3% year on year, to 4.0 million, with routes to and from Southeast Asia, Taiwan, the Chinese mainland and North America recording the biggest drops. Air traffic movements also declined by 3.3% over December 2007, to 24,775.

"2008 was very tough for the aviation industry, with skyrocketing oil prices in the first half of the year followed by the financial tsunami and the ensuing weakening demand for travel and air cargo services in the second half. The foreseeable future in 2009 will remain challenging, as the full effects of the recession are felt here in Hong Kong and across the globe," said Stanley Hui Hon-chung, Chief Executive Officer of the Airport Authority (AA).

"However, we hope to see the economy gradually stabilise in the latter part of 2009. While the near-term uncertainties will continue to pose challenges, we remain confident over the long-term traffic performance of HKIA. And we are as committed as ever to maintaining Hong Kong's status as a regional and international aviation centre, serving the overall economic development of Hong Kong and Mainland China. We will continue to work closely with our business partners to enhance services at HKIA with a view to better meeting the changing needs of passengers and logistics providers," he added.

Some of the expansion and improvement projects currently underway are scheduled to be completed in 2009. These include the North Satellite Concourse, the permanent SkyPier ferry terminal and the Permanent Aviation Fuel Facility. The study for HKIA Master Plan 2030 began last year and will be completed in mid-2009, after which it will be released following approval by the AA Board.

Incheon International Airport (South Korea)

Airport bosses insist the strategy behind developing Incheon International Airport during the 1990s was to create a gateway to Korea. Following completion in 2001, the hub is now considered one of Asia's leading airports.

The hub was built to replace Gimpo International Airport, which has since downgraded to mostly domestic flights. Several airlines operate from the hub - which has two runways - including Korean Air, United Airlines, Air China and Asiana Airlines.

Incheon International Airport's passenger terminal measures 15,000 sq m and was built using traditional Korean designs and concepts. It is aero and hydro-dynamic in shape, has 44 boarding docks with 38 for international passengers and three for domestic flights, and incorporates the latest technology.

Aside from the passenger terminal, the airport also has a cargo terminal and international business complex.

The airport operates several daily flights, including 22 to China, 26 across Asia and 25 in Japan. The hub also connects Asia to destinations in the Middle East, North America, Europe, Africa and Oceania.

Incheon International Airport handled 30 million passengers in 2008, a decline of -4% compared with 2007.


Ninoy Aquino International Airport


The country's main airport was originally a US Air Force Base that was handed to the Philippine government in 1948. In the early days, the hub was a civil aviation airport with modest facilities, including one runway for domestic flights and a small passenger terminal.

Since then, Ninoy Aquino International Airport has developed into an established hub with some 22.3 million passengers being handled in 2008.

The hub has three terminals and an old domestic facility for internal flights. Terminal 1 was designed to accommodate 4.5 million international travellers when built in 1981. Within 10 years, the building reached full capacity, prompting the government to expand. During the next seven years, the terminal was extended before becoming fully operation in 1998. That year, the airport handled 6.8 million international passengers and 5.4 million domestic.

Terminal 2 was earmarked for national carrier Philippine Airlines, despite plans to operate domestic flights via the hub before its opening in 1999. Its design capacity is nine million domestic passengers, with five million already using the hub. The terminal can also handle some 2.5 million international passengers each year. Passengers flying out from the terminal can spend time at various duty free shops and the food court. Elsewhere, conference facilities are in place for business travellers.

The airport serves several international airlines, including Qantas, Qatar Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Domestic carriers also fly to and from the hub, such as Asian Spirit, South East Asian Airlines and Cebu Pacific.

Kansai International Airport

Kansai International Airport is considered Japan's second most important international hub. It is located on a man-made island 50km south of Osaka and was opened in 1994, taking over all international and some domestic flights from Itami Airport.

Developing the airport was far from easy, with mountain excavation and sea wall construction required. Furthermore, a 3km bridge costing some $1 billion was created, linking the island to the main land. With the island gradually sinking since the airport was built, the government commissioned work on three adjustable columns to provide support. It's thought building the airport has cost the government more than $20 billion.

The airport has one terminal building, with several train lines and bus routes linking it to Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. The terminal is a four-storey structure that extends to 1.7km, making it the world's longest passenger hub. It is fitted with a walkway system to help get passengers through the airport quickly.

Kansai International Airport has two runways, of which the second was opened in 2002. Introducing another runway, measuring 4000 metres long, has helped accommodate increasing numbers of domestic and international flights, with more than 6 million passengers using the airport in the first six months of 2009.

Several international carriers use the hub, such as Cathay Pacific, Korean Air, Nepal Airlines, Shanghai Airlines and Finnair. Meanwhile, domestic carriers regularly operating to and from the airport include All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines and StarFlyer.

Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport

The airport opened in 1979 as one of several construction projects carried out by the government. Until seven years ago, the hub had one terminal to cope with passengers travelling through. Today, a second terminal is in operation following rising traveller numbers.

Only half of the boarding gates at Terminal 2 were operational when it opened in 2000. Since then, the remaining gates have become functional. Eva Air was the first airline to move to the new terminal, with China Airlines making the switch in 2005.

Terminal 1 is undergoing a $42 million renovation, which is scheduled for completion next year. The refurbishment includes a modern, stylish interior. To avoid congestion during peak hours, the renovations are taking place late at night.

Plans to open a third terminal to replace the first building have been mooted. It's believed all international flights will move to Terminal 3 if the government goes ahead with plans to begin building next year. Meanwhile, the original building will become the base for domestic flights.

Terminal 2 was opened to reduce congestion at the ageing Terminal 1 building. Only the South Concourse, with 10 gates and two jetways had been completed by the time the terminal opened. The building is connected to Terminal 1 via short walkways. China Airlines' flights to and from the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Guam are located in Terminal 2.


Tokyo International Airport (Japan)

Tokyo International Airport opened in 1931 and was originally the capital's main hub for international air traffic before the development of Narita Airport in 1978. Since then, the hub has assumed responsibility for the Japanese capital's domestic travellers.

The hub is located some 30 minutes south of central Tokyo. It consists of three runways and three terminal buildings, with Terminal 1 used by Japan Airlines and its subsidiary carriers. Terminal 2 is designated for All Nippon Airways and affiliated airlines, while a small number of overseas flights operate from the international terminal.

Expansion is underway, with a fourth runway expected to be operational by 2010. Another terminal for international flights should also be complete in two year's time.

The five-storey building, which includes 2300 car parking spaces, will be financed through a private finance initiative. Passengers can travel to the terminal using the Tokyo monorail and Keikyu Airport Line. An international air cargo facility will be built nearby.

Like most hubs, Tokyo International Airport has several restaurants and cafeterias in the main terminal building. Chinese, Japanese and Western food outlets with views overlooking the runways are available for business and first class passengers. Meanwhile, other travellers can satisfy their appetites at self-service eateries. The hub also has various duty free shops selling the usual items.

With more than 60 million travellers flying in and out of the hub each year, Tokyo International is the busiest airport in Japan.



Kuala Lumpur International Airport

Kuala Lumpur International Airport is surrounded by Shah Alam, Seremban and Malacca. The airport has a large catchment area and supports several business activities. Its management says every effort has been made to "create a homely airport with a serene environment combined with high technologies attractions". To that end, the directors have developed a natural environment with grassy areas and trees around the hub.

The forest areas will be preserved and transformed into an environment park containing recreational facilities. For car racing enthusiasts a Formula One Race Track is located near the airport. The track also caters for several other activities throughout the year, including motor-cycle and rally racing.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport is within 20 minutes of Malaysia's administration capital, Putrajaya. Elsewhere, an 80-room airside transit hotel is located within the Satellite Building for travel-weary passengers to rest. In addition, a 441-room five-star hotel, The Pan Pacific Hotel Kuala Lumpur International Airport, is available within walking distance from the airport terminal building.

The hub was voted the World's Best Airport for two consecutive years, in the 2005 AETRA awards and 2006 ACI-ASQ awards. It handled around 13.5 million passengers in the first half of 2009, making it one of Southeast Asia's main airports.

Malaysian Airlines, AirAsia, Garuda Indonesia and Lufthansa are some of the airlines that use the hub, which is operated by Malaysia Airports. It has two runways that are 4000 metres long and 60 metres wide, and the Passenger Terminal Complex, comprising three buildings.


Beijing Capital International Airport (China)

Beijing Capital International Airport officially opened on October 1, 1999, marking the 50th anniversary of Chinese Communist rule. The new terminal, built for $1.1 billion, replaces the former facility, which started operating in the 1950s and became increasingly cramped following rising passenger numbers.

The new four-storey terminal (including basement level) covers 336,000 sq m - three times the size of the former terminal - and places more emphasis on passenger comfort. The complex also includes a large-scale public parking building and cargo station.

Laser scan technology is used for luggage inspections, while information display boards, computer-aided aircraft guiding systems, and security equipment are also in place. Electronic display boards are installed throughout the airport, providing arrival and departure information in both Chinese and English.

Meanwhile, the Unisys Airport Passenger Processing System (APPS) enables airport personnel to check in travellers and baggage. The system also completes reservations and departure control processes more quickly and efficiently.

When the terminal becomes fully operational, it will be capable of handling 190,000 flights, 35 million passengers and 780,000 tonnes of cargo each year. The building has 51 elevators, 63 escalators, and 26 moving sidewalks.

Beijing is served by international carriers such as Northwest, United, Canadian Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS, Dragon Air, and British Airways. Other carriers operating to and from the hub include Malaysian Air, Austrian Airlines, Air France, Alitalia, Korean Air, Pakistan Airlines and Singapore Airlines.

Several multimedia payphones are located throughout the terminal, enabling travellers to maintain contact with friends and business associates around the globe.



Suvarnabhumi Bangkok Airport

Suvarnabhumi airport opened on September 28, 2006 to replace Bangkok's ageing hub, Don Muang International Airport. It was named by King Bhumibol Adulyadej and means 'The Golden Land', which is a traditional name for the Thailand-Cambodia-Laos-Burma region.

The airport is located in Racha Thewa in the Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan province, 30km east of Bangkok. It has 130 passport control checkpoints for arrivals and 72 for departures, 34 customs control, and 22 baggage conveyor belts. Other facilities include 360 check-in counters, as well as 100 additional counters for passengers without luggage, 107 moving walkways, 102 elevators and 83 escalators.

Bangkok's newest international airport, which was designed by Murphy/Jahn Architects, has two parallel runways and taxiways to enable simultaneous departures and arrivals. There are also 120 parking bays - five of which can accommodate the A380 - that handle 76 flight operations each hour. A 600-room hotel for travellers hoping to relax before or after a flight is located in front of the passenger terminal. According to the government, Suvarnabhumi airport was capable of handling 45 million passengers and three million tons of cargo each year. The figures are set to increase following continued work on the hub. With only the first phase of development complete, work on a satellite building south of the main terminal should be finalised in three to five years. By that time, the first main terminal will also be fully operational.

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