Airports in Southeast Asia are playing a game of capacity growth, in an attempt to address congestion and meet rising air travel demand.
Capacity issues are particularly acute in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. More mature markets such as Malaysia and Singapore, however, are also gearing up for continued growth.
In Indonesia, three greenfield airport projects built by state-owned and private entities are under way. These will replace existing facilities.
Bandung is set to welcome the West Java International airport (BIJB) this year, which will replace the existing Husein Sastranegara airport. Located in Kertajati, 86km northeast of Bandung, it will be built in four stages between 2018 and 2045.
In the initial stage, BIJB will be able to handle up to five million passengers annually. This will gradually increase to 18 million passengers by the project's final phase in 2045.
Yogyakarta will begin construction of a new airport to replace the congested Adisucipto airport. While the project has been hampered by ongoing land issues, the new airport will have an initial annual handling capacity of 10 million passengers, which will be doubled to 20 million in the later phases.
Both the new Bandung and Yogyakarta airports are being built by state-owned entities, and will be managed by airport operators Angkasa Pura I and II (AP I and II).
Meanwhile, on Bintan – an island an hour's ferry ride from Singapore – Indonesia's first privately developed greenfield airport is being built by Bintan Aerospace Investments (BAI), a subsidiary of Singapore-based investment firm Gallant Venture.
BAI is investing an initial $150 million in the new airport, which will be capable of handling up to 1.25 million passengers annually, with room to double capacity to 2.5 million in the later stage.
In an interview with FlightGlobal, BAI managing director Michael Wudy said the airport would begin operations in the second half of 2019 and be managed by AP II.
He explains that growing tourist demand to Bintan, as well as the need to support the resorts and industrial parks in which Gallant Venture has invested, are the factors that drove BAI to develop the new airport.
Wudy adds that the island's only airport, Raja Haji Fisabilillah, located in the largest town of Tanjung Pinang, has no room for expansion as it shares space with Indonesia's air force.
EXISTING AIRPORTS STILL IN GROWTH MODE
In a region where there are more passengers flying through the airports than the amount of available capacity, Singapore's Changi Airport is exceptional in having excess capacity.
The airport opened a fourth terminal in October 2017, with nine carriers operating out of the facility. It raises Changi's annual handling capacity by 16 million, to 82 million total.
Though the country has just 5.6 million residents, its airport surpassed the 60 million passenger record in December.
Not content with that 82 million figure, Singapore is developing a fifth terminal for the next decade, which will raise Changi's capacity to 135 million passengers per annum. This vast construction site is adjacent to runway 2 and the site of the Singapore air show. Terminal 5 will have as much capacity as all of Changi's existing terminals combined.
Thailand is meanwhile developing the country's first ever airports masterplan, in order to meet the segment's current and future needs.
In January, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) said that the previous absence of an airports masterplan had led to a lack of integration and an inability to fully utilise the sector's human-resource potential.
The country's airports have now been divided into four categories: primary, secondary, regional and provincial.
Only Bangkok Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports are categorised as primary, with Chiang Mai and Phuket identified as secondary airports. Another 29 airports are classified under the regional and provincial categories.
The plan also emphasises safety and security, accessibility, connectivity, service quality, operational efficiency and sustainability.
The CAAT says the development of its airports will be undertaken in four phases over a 20-year period. It is also looking to develop new airports to act as capacity relievers for Chiang Mai and Phuket airports.
Despite the positive development that an airport can bring to the local economy, there has been resistance from some quarters.
At Yogyakarta, AP I has struggled to begin construction of the new airport amid legal and land issues.
It got to the point where AP I had to issue a statement urging landowners who had sold their land to the airport developers to vacate immediately, as they had stayed beyond their departure deadline.
The company pointed out that there was an urgent need to replace Yogyakarta's existing Adisucipto airport, and that it was also obliged to comply with a presidential order stipulating that the new airport had to begin operations in April 2019.
Government indecision can also paralyse an airport's development, the long-suffering Manila Ninoy Aquino International airport (NAIA) being a prime example.
In 2016, Manila approved a Ps74.6 billion ($1.48 billion) public-private partnership (PPP) project to upgrade NAIA. Local reports indicate that this has been stalled on concerns that it would take too long to recover the investments made into the project.
Generally, the money for building a new airport comes from the government. But it could also come from funds collected through imposed surcharges, internal company cash flow, or through other combinations.
To fund the development of Changi East, which will include the fifth terminal, Singapore is exploring options.
The country's transport ministry tells FlightGlobal that a large portion of the capital expenditure will come from the government, while the remaining costs will be shared by Changi Airport Group (CAG), aviation stakeholders and passengers.
Options under consideration include a passenger fee. Earlier developments – such as Terminal 4 and the expansion of Terminal 1 – were funded through aeronautical charges paid to CAG.
In Indonesia, AP I and II have opted for a combination of capital injection, bank loans and bonds. While AP I has a requirement of Rp25 trillion ($1.87 billion) to 2020 to fund its airport expansion, its AP II counterpart requires a far larger Rp60.1 trillion up to 2021 in order to expand the airports under its management.
The Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines (AAPA) in July 2017 highlighted the importance of governments in ensuring that a country has sufficient aviation infrastructure to meet expected passenger traffic growth.
AAPA director-general Andrew Herdman gives Manila's NAIA as an example. He notes that the Philippine government has long been evaluating possible sites for a new gateway. But while the commitment to build infrastructure is there, progress has been slow.
Vietnam urgently needs a new airport to complement or replace the overcrowded Tan Son Nhat International airport in Ho Chi Minh City, and is working on a project to the city's north, in rural Long Thanh province.
Long Thanh's first phase is intended to be completed in 2025. This phase will comprise one runway and one passenger terminal capable of handling 25 million passengers and 1.2 million tonnes of cargo annually.
Phase 2 will involve the development of a second runway and terminal. This will bring total capacity to 75 million passengers and 2.7 million tonnes of cargo annually. In the long term, the airport will have a yearly capacity of 100 million passengers and five million tonnes of cargo.
Vietnam's deputy prime minister Trinh Dinh Dung was quoted in a July 2016 Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) statement insisting that construction of Long Thanh airport must begin in 2019 and that it must be operational in 2025. His remarks came after local news reports suggested that construction would not get under way until 2021 – two years behind the original schedule.
The CAAV held consultations with 4,730 households, 15,000 inhabitants and 26 organisations that will be affected by the new airport. Amazingly, it claims that "100% agree with the policy of implementing the project", even as relocation and compensation packages have yet to be fully worked out.
Despite government optimism that the plan is on track, airline executives in the country tend to believe the project will be delayed.
Herdman notes that there has been a trend toward public-private partnership projects. He warns of a danger that governments would make a short-term gain by selling an overpriced asset, with users then having to "ultimately pay too much". Thus there is a need to find the right balance.
He adds: "Political decisions in terms of planning approvals, that's the role that governments have to play – co-ordinating planning decisions, how to finance it, who finances it... Governments have to play a key role in brokering the political decision making on planning positions and the associated ground infrastructure."
Source: Cirium Dashboard