Asia has been a hotbed of airline activity, but infrastructure at a number of airports has been lagging behind.

Chief among those examples is Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport, which has been the classic case example of an airport caught out by the huge surge in traffic that has happened in Asia over the past decade. In 2013 it handled 64 million passengers – far exceeding its design capacity of 22 million.

Incremental improvements to boost the number of aircraft movements, such as high-speed taxiways and re-worked procedures are being worked on. Projects to expand its terminal capacity are also underway, however those will only bring its capacity up to 62 million passengers per annum.

Longer term, airport operator Angkasa Pura II is planning to build two new runways, potentially with the involvement of the private sector to help fund the anticipated $2 billion cost.

In light of the continued pressure at the country’s main hub, airport operators Angkasa Pura I and II have been busy expanding terminals and infrastructure at a number of cities, such as Denpasar (Bali), Surabaya and Makassar.

The opening last year of Medan’s new Kuala Namu International airport is a good alternative hub to Soekarno-Hatta. While its passenger terminal only has capacity for eight million passengers, there is a plan in place to ultimately lift it to 50 million through a staged expansion process.

In the Philippines, approval has been given for the construction of a third runway at its main gateway airport, Manila Ninoy Aquino International which will open in mid-2016. However due to space limitations, the runway will be shorter than the two existing ones, and will not allow for simultaneous operations. Nevertheless, it will raise the number of movements per hour from 40 to between 55 and 60.

That approval follows the opening in July of the airport’s long-delayed Terminal 3, while rehabilitation work at Terminal 1 remains ongoing.

Pressure is also mounting at Hong Kong. The Airport Authority of Hong Kong admitted earlier this year that traffic growth is tracking ahead of its forecast, and it now expects to reach capacity before the 2019-2022 timeframe previously envisioned in its most recent master plan.

That has seen pressure on the number of slots at the airport. Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express have warned that their short-term growth will be impacted by the lack of slots.

The slots issue has underlined the importance of securing approval for the long-awaited third runway. Pending the required approvals – including a tricky environmental issue over land reclamation – it is only expected to be operational in 2023.

Many in Hong Kong see the runway as crucial for the city to maintain its hub status in light of growing competition from other airports in southern China, such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Singapore’s Changi airport has also been hard at work preparing for the future. Construction of a new Terminal 4 is underway, and when it opens in 2017 is expected to raise the airport’s capacity to 85 million passengers.

Last year it handled a record 53.7 million passengers, but since then growth has been largely flat as the airport feels the impact of the loss of long-haul services from Qantas, and reduced capacity growth from low-cost carriers. That has been exacerbated by the long downturn in air cargo.

As a result, the airport has offered a series of rebates on aircraft parking charges and aerobridge fees, and extended concessions for cargo operators. Most recently, it has also offered airlines rebates for long-haul flights and transfer passengers.

“The new incentives are targeted at long-haul flights and transfer traffic, two important segments of our air traffic,” says Lim Ching Kiat, Changi Airport Group’s senior vice-president for market development.

Longer term, the airport is planning to link the terminals to its third runway, which is not linked to the terminal precinct and is presently used exclusively by Singapore’s air force. Singapore’s government has indicated that Changi will be operating as a three-runway system by the early 2020s.

Further north in Kuala Lumpur, the airport is still in the process of bedding in its newest terminal KLIA2, which has brought with it a third runway. Built to replace the overcrowded low-cost carrier terminal, the project was close to three years late when it opened in May this year.

While KLIA2 has provided additional capacity, most analysts believe that recent events will see traffic growth slow at the airport. The MH370 and MH17 tragedies, restructuring efforts of Malaysia Airlines, and slowing down from AirAsia will likely pose challenges for it in the short-term.

Asia Pacific airport growth 2004-13 V2

In Japan, few airports have seen major issues, but more are now working to provide facilities for the country’s growing low-cost carrier market. Next year Narita airport is set to open a dedicated low-cost carrier terminal that will have the capacity to handle 7.5 million domestic passengers each year.

Kansai International is also set to open a third terminal to cater to low-cost carriers in 2016. The facility will have capacity to handle 8 million passengers, and will relieve pressure on its existing terminals.


With such fast growth, a number of countries have moved to open up additional airport capacity at major cities.

Jakarta has, to some extent, tried to alleviate the situation at Soekarno-Hatta by opening up more civil flights at Halim Perdanakusuma airport, which is mostly used by the military. However with only a handful of civil flights permitted each hour, only Garuda’s low-cost unit Citilink is utilising the airport for domestic services.

Indonesia’s transport ministry has indicated that it wants to open a second international airport to serve Jakarta by 2020. Designs for the facility at Karawang, east of Jakarta, are expected to be released next year.

Bangkok’s original airport, Don Mueang, re-opened in 2007 initially for some domestic flights and has become a haven for low-cost carriers. Thai AirAsia, Nok Air and most recently Thai Airways International’s Thai Smile subsidiary have now moved their operations to the airport. Added to that, the launch of Thai AirAsia X and planned launch of NokScoot next year will bring long-haul, low-cost carriers to the airport.

Last year the airport handled 16.5 million passengers, and has much more room for expansion.

“Don Mueang has a potential of 30 million passenger capacity and can probably be expanded further. Thus, it has a good starting point,” says Joanna Lu, head of advisory Asia at Flightglobal’s Ascend Consultancy.


While Southeast Asia struggles to maintain the capacity, China has been surging ahead with building new airports in an attempt to get ahead of the curve of strong passenger growth.

In 2018, a second new airport will open in Beijing to complement the busy Capital airport, and at Shanghai Pudong, a fourth runway is due to open by the end of the year, with a fifth one already being planned for.

Elsewhere across the country, the administration has been busy building new and upgrading existing airports to cope with a more mobile population, and an increasing number of international routes to smaller centres, such as Chengdu and Xiamen.

“Of course there remains the question over whether the current plans are adequate,” says Mizuho Bank industry research manager Eri Motegi. “We believe that if the need arises, the Beijing government has ample financial resources at its disposal, as well as the political will to expand such undertakings.”

India is also trying to push ahead with a programme of building new airports, albeit not with the same resolve and pace as China.

Prior to the election of the Modi government, the Airports Authority of India was given direction to involve the private sector in future airline developments. This saw it start tender processes to privatise six airports, including those in Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Chennai. The process has since been put on ice, with the AAI expected to restart it based on a new private-public partnership model.

Recent history has shown that airport privatisation has worked well in India, with infrastructure giants GMR and GVK leading the way in operating airports in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

This year, Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport opened the first stage of its new international terminal, with a new pier to be completed in mid-2015. That will raise the airport’s capacity to 40 million passengers per annum, which it projects will be reached around 2019. In 2013 it handled 32 million passengers.

Its little surprise then that CSIA has shown support for the recent forward momentum on the long-proposed Navi Mumbai airport development.

“We need more capacity and, given the land constraints that we have with the existing airport. I think this will be a great greenfields project for Mumbai,” the airport’s vice-president of aero marketing Naveen Chawla told Flightglobal earlier this year.

Approved in 2007, the Navi Mumbai project has been delayed by land acquisition issues until this year, when the first round qualifying for a construction tender began. The proposed airport would be built on 1160 hectares of land, with an eventual capacity to handle up to 60 million passengers annually.

Source: Airline Business