Korea mulls building new southern airport

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Aug 25, 2014 - 21:24
  • Updated : Aug 25, 2014 - 21:24
Passenger traffic at a major international airport near South Korea’s second-largest city Busan will hit its maximum capacity in 2023, a government report showed Monday, a finding that is certain to heat up competition among city and provincial governments that want to host a new air hub.

Reporting on separate findings by the Paris Airport Authority and the Korea Transport Institute, the transportation ministry said passenger traffic at Gimhae International Airport would rise an average 4.7 percent annually from 2015, with 21.62 million people to use the airport in 2030.

These findings represent a doubling in traffic and highlight the rise in demand caused by more people traveling abroad in recent years.

The report also said that by 2023, the number of passengers using South Korea’s third-largest airport will hit 16.68 million, compared to 9.67 million last year, making it hard for existing facilities to deal with traffic in an effective manner, as the airport only has two runways that it also shares with military aircraft.

“The two independent studies clearly show the need to meet the rise in demand,” said Choi Jeong-ho, head of the ministry’s airline policy office, adding that the government would work closely with local governments to conduct detailed, transparent and fair studies to determine where the next airport needs to be built.

Several cities in South and North Gyeongsang provinces, as well as Busan, Daegu and Ulsan, want to host the new airport.

They all welcomed the findings and called on the central government to carry out the selection process in a transparent manner so as not to trigger future discord.

The ministry said the emergence of low-cost carriers has fueled the boom in air travel out of Gimhae, the hub airport for Air Busan Co., an affiliate of full-service carrier Asiana Airlines Inc.

LCC traffic at Gimhae shot up from just 6 percent in 2009 to 37 percent in 2013, with international flights skyrocketing from 424 flights per week five years ago to 737 flights last year.

The number of foreign routes serviced by the international airport has risen to 30 from 24 in the same period.

The findings showed other airports in the region except Gimhae will not face overcapacity in 2030.

Competing hosts have said the new airport should be linked to the buildup of the country’s aerospace industry, which policymakers have said can become the country’s next growth engine. (Yonhap)