Incheon continues to make sweet Seoul music

Logo: Incheon AirportSeoul’s Incheon airport (ICN) was opened in March 2001 to cater for Korea’s international flights as the existing airport at Gimpo was unable to meet growing demand. In 2000 Gimpo handled over 36 million passengers and has remained open to handle primarily domestic services. In the last few years Gimpo’s traffic has stabilized at around 14 million passengers while Incheon’s traffic grew by almost 11% in 2008.

Chart: Seoul airports traffic 1992-2007
Source: ICAO

Incheon’s traffic has grown by almost 60% in the last four years and passed the 30 million mark in 2007. Traffic in the Seoul airport system has doubled since 1993 from 22.5 million to 45 million last year.

Chart: Seoul Incheon airport seasonality
Source: ICAO
Image: Asiana Airlines’ celebrate the launch of the carrier’s service to Paris
French Ambassador to Korea, Philippe Thiebaud, Asiana Airlines’ President Kang Joo-an and Incheon International Airport Corporation CEO Lee Jae-hee, second from right, celebrate the launch of the carrier’s thrice-weekly service to Paris which started at the end of March.

After impressive double-digit growth in 2007 passenger numbers in the last few months have been at very similar levels to the previous year. Demand is relatively stable throughout the year with a peak in August.

China, Japan, US lead country markets

The leading country markets are no surprise – China, Japan and the US – as these are the major trading partners. Asiana serves 20 Chinese destinations, Korean Air 18, China Eastern and China Southern both serve 11 and Air China seven. The Beijing route is served by no less than five airlines.

Chart: Top 10 country markets to/from ICN
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 16 June 2008

Services to Japan are dominated by Korean carriers with Asiana serving 16 destinations, Korean Air 13, while Japanese carriers JAL and ANA serve only three each. US routes are also dominated by local airlines with Korean serving 10 US cities and Asiana five. United Airlines operates daily to San Francisco while Delta flies five times per week to Atlanta.

The leading European market is Germany where Frankfurt and Munich are both served by Lufthansa and Korean Air, while Asiana also serves Frankfurt. Other European airlines serving Incheon include Air France, KLM, Turkish Airlines and most recently Finnair which began five times weekly service on 2 June using an A340-300.

Image: Finnair inauguration of Seoul to Helsinki
Most recently Finnair began a five times weekly service on 2 June using an A340-300.

Local airlines = 60% of international market

Korean Air and Asiana between them account for over 60% of scheduled seat capacity at Incheon. Third ranked Singapore Airlines has less than 5%.

Chart: Top 10 airlines at ICN
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 16 June 2008

Other Asian airlines fill the remaining top 10 places with the exception of Lufthansa which sneaks in at number 10 thanks to its flights from Munich and Frankfurt and onward connections to Pusan in Korea and the newly introduced (on 8 June) onward flight to Shenyang in China. A total of 43 countries are served with direct scheduled services while the average aircraft size at the airport this summer is 247 seats.

Phase 2 due for completion soon

The airport has won several awards based on passenger surveys. It is now completing phase 2 involving a 4000-metre third runway which will enable annual movements to increase from 240,000 to 410,000. New terminal facilities will enable passenger numbers to grow to around 44 million. The new construction is expected to be ready in time for this autumn’s Olympics in Beijing.

Image: Seoul Airport
Due for completion this year, Phase II of Seoul Incheon Airport’s development programme includes a third parallel 4,000m long runway, a 165,000sqm concourse and a 130,000sqm cargo terminal area. Upon completion, the airport is expected to have an annual capacity of 44 million passengers.

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