Ready for Take-Off: Asia-Pacific Outlook

7 August 2011 (Last Updated August 7th, 2011 18:30)

Asia-Pacific's airport industry is growing apace, with passenger numbers soaring every year. Sarah Blackman explores the driving forces behind this growth and lists some of the major projects coming online in the region.

Ready for Take-Off: Asia-Pacific Outlook

A recent statement from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has described the mood of the Asia-Pacific (ASP) air travel industry as 'buzzing with excitement', an opinion which seems wholly accurate when considering the level of growth seen in the region lately.

Statistics from Airports Council International show in the first quarter of this year East Asia, south east Asia and Australasia saw the number of international passengers rise by 6.5% to 112.3m, the largest growth rate among the world's regions.

ASP also outperformed other parts of the world - bar North America - for overall passenger growth, witnessing a 5.5% year-on-year growth from 283m in 2010 to 299.2m in Q1 2011.

In terms of total movements for the quarter, ASP figures were overshadowed by other regions - recording 2.65 million movements compared with North America's 6.5 million - but again saw the biggest year-on-year growth of 5.4%, against Europe's 4.2% rise and NAM's 0.5% drop.

"Intra Asia travel is now the single largest market in the world, and will account for 30% of traffic by 2014."

Even with an 8.9% decline in passenger numbers in Japan, due to a major earthquake and tsunami that hit the country in March, robust figures for Asia-Pacific have continued to emerge.

Intra Asia travel is now the single largest market in the world, and will account for 30% of traffic by 2014, according to IATA figures.

What's driving this fierce streak of competitiveness may be the increasing level of efficiency among the region's airports.

In February, Airports Council International announced the recipients of the annual airport service quality (ASQ) awards for 2010.

In the category of best airports worldwide, the top five airports were all from Asia - Incheon International, Korea; Singapore Changi Airport; and China's Hong Kong, Beijing Capital and Shanghai Pudong International Airports.

In its quest to lead the aviation industry, Asia-Pacific is also investing more and more in new capacity to meet growth expected in the future, as well as employing new technologies to make travel more convenient.

Here we list some of the biggest and most exciting airport projects coming online in the region.

Airports of the future

Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand

In July this year, Airports of Thailand approved a $5.4 billion budget for the expansion of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, the third busiest airport in Asia.

The airport, which was opened for international and domestic flights in September 2006, is currently able to handle 45 million passengers per annum, but long-term development plans are expected to increase this capacity to 103 million passengers a year by 2024.

"In the category of best airports worldwide, the top five airports were all from Asia."

The first stage, from 2013-2016, covers the construction of a domestic passenger terminal, a third runway and a car park, while the second phase, which will run until 2020, involves the expansion of domestic and foreign passenger terminals and the construction of a fourth runway.

The final phase, with a budget of £3.3 billion will see the construction of a fifth runway and additional passenger terminals.

New technologies are set to be introduced at air traffic control centres in Thailand's 38 airports, including Suvarnabhumi International, to help the country's standards equal those of Europe and America, Aeronautical Radio of Thailand announced in July.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia

In Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur International Airport is adding a low-cost carrier terminal to its facility, according to Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB).

The 242,000m² building worth $675m is designed to initially handle 30 million passengers a year and can be expanded to handle up to 45 million passengers.

MAHB, is devoting 35,000m² to commercial activities and 15,000m² of retail space in the terminal, which is expected to be completed by October 2012.

A transportation hub for buses, taxis and the express rail link is also being built at Kuala Lumpur International, one of Southeast Asia's largest airports.

Beijing's Second Airport, China

China's capital city, Beijing, plans to build its second airport in the southern suburb of Daxing District by October 2017, according to local reports.

The regional hub is designed to handle 80 million passengers a year once complete, sending Beijing's overall capacity to 120 million passengers.

The airport is expected to be approved within a year and is likely to have eight runways for civilian use and one for military use, an airline source from China United Airlines told the Beijing News in June.

Meanwhile, the existing Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) is working on improving its efficiency. Since its Olympic experience in 2008, the hub has created new higher safety service standards with government agencies and airlines.

Beijing Capital International Airport CEO and president Dong Zhiyi said in a recent statement, "We will create world-class safety management controls and higher operational flows to provide excellent services, making sure that other airports of this group, or even in China as a whole, will grow in a joint way."

Navi Mumbai International Airport, India

In May, the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra received final approval for the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport draft masterplan.

This approval clears the way for companies to bid on the $2.2bn airport project, which is expected to be completed in four phases through to 2030.

The City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), along with the union government, will hold a 26% stake in the new airport.

CIDCO hopes the airport will serve ten million passengers in its first operational year 2012, and increase this figure to 40 million by 2030.

Incheon Airport, South Korea

"In July 2011, Airports of Thailand approved a $5.4 billion budget to expand Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, the third busiest Asian airport."

One of the largest airports in the world and the winner of the Airport Service Quality award for best airport worldwide, Incheon Airport is set to grow even more in size and efficiency.

The hub already handles 44 million passengers and 4.5 million tons of cargo.

These figures are expected to jump to 62 million passengers and 5.8 million tons by 2015.

With an investment of $3.7 billion, the South Korean government plans to add a second passenger terminal to the northern field of the airport and expand its existing cargo terminal.

The airport is expected reach completion after 20 years of construction and upgrade works.

It will have two passenger terminals, four satellite concourses, 128 gates and five parallel runways.

Upon completion, the airport is set to handle 100 million passengers and seven million tons of cargo a year, making it one of the top ten busiest airports in the world.