In the 17 years since its opening in 2001, Incheon International Airport has been one of the world’s fastest-growing airports. It is now taking the final steps in becoming a global gateway. With an average annual growth rate of 7.5% since its launch, the airport served a cumulative 600 million passengers as of this year. Last year, having handled 61 million international passengers and 2.9 million tons of international cargo, the airport was ranked seventh and third in the world, respectively, reinforcing its status as the aviation hub for the north-east Asian region.

When Terminal 2 (T2) opened this January – to great success – it gave the airport a lift that helped it to soar to new heights. T2 can serve 18 million passengers annually, enabling the airport to handle 72 million passengers.

Major improvements

With the opening of T2, airlines have been arranged by alliance for enhanced connectivity. Star Alliance carriers, including Asiana Airlines, along with a number of international and low-cost airlines have remained under one roof at Terminal 1 (T1), while Korean Air, Delta Air Lines, KLM and Air France have moved to the T2, which only serves members of SkyTeam.

Minimum connecting time between Korean Air/Asiana Airlines and their alliance partners using the same terminal has been streamlined from 70 to 45 minutes, making it much faster and easier for passengers to complete connections. Also, airport facilities and technologies have been upgraded to facilitate departures, arrivals and transfers.

The opening of T2 has greatly reduced time spent on departure procedures. Now that travellers are no longer crammed into T1, but spread out into the new terminal, the average time spent on airport departures has dropped by seven minutes from 41 minutes in 2017 to 34 minutes in 2018. The time spent on arrival procedures has also decreased from 27 to 26 minutes. The International Civil Aviation Organization recommends 60 minutes for departure processing and 45 minutes for processing arrivals.

On the cutting edge

Along with the opening of a new terminal equipped with cutting-edge facilities, passenger handling facilities in T1 and the concourse will get a facelift. The airport will invest $90 million by 2020 to improve check-in counters and lounge facilities, and expand security screening checkpoints, upgrading all T1 facilities to the level of T2.

To proactively respond to rapidly increasing air travel demand in the Asia-Pacific region, Incheon International Airport immediately embarked on its Phase IV expansion. As part of this expansion, the airport plans to devote $3.8 billion by 2023 to enlarge T2 and build a fourth runway with a view to becoming an ultra-large-scale airport that can accommodate more than 100 million passengers annually.

In it for the long haul

As of April 2018, Incheon International Airport offers direct services to 182 cities in 53 countries through 86 airlines. In particular, it connects more than 100 cities throughout Asia, including 35 in China and 24 in Japan. Also, the airport has been vigorously expanding its long-haul routes as many full-service carriers have introduced new long-haul services in recent years, including Delta Air Lines to Atlanta, Aeromexico to Mexico City, Korean Air to Barcelona and Asiana Airlines to Venice. In 2017 alone, the airport served 12 new airlines and 27 new routes.

Along with the opening of a new terminal equipped with cutting-edge facilities, passenger handling facilities in T1 and the concourse will get a facelift.

Earlier this year, the airport significantly strengthened its new incentive system for passenger carriers to actively court new airlines and strategic long-haul routes. It has extended the landing charge exemption period for new airlines from one to two years. The airport has also increased its advertising support aimed at enhancing awareness of new airlines and routes from $30,000 to $50,000.

In an effort to increase long-haul routes and enhance its competitiveness as an air hub, the airport has set out to expand its network of 30 strategic routes to all cities around the globe, more than 6,000km away – this means all cities in the Americas, Europe and Oceania. The airport will also exempt airlines serving strategic routes from landing charges on those routes for up to two years.