What Makes Korean Airports Stand Out in the World?

  • By Choi Jong-seok, Shin Eun-jin

    July 15, 2015 12:50

    Korean airports are sweeping global awards again this year. In the annual Asian Airport Efficiency Excellence Award (AEEA) by the Air Transport Research Society, Jeju, Gimhae, and Gimpo airports finished in first, second, and fourth places. Incheon International Airport came seventh.

    In last year's awards, Gimhae and Jeju ranked first and second, and Gimpo and Incheon fifth and sixth.

    Competition for international awards has become something of a domestic contest. Some of the airports bested by Korea this year are Hong Kong International Airport, which came third, Haikou Meilan International Airport in fifth, and Singapore's Changi Airport in eighth.

    ◆ Service and Safety

    Similar result came out in the 2015 Airport Service Quality (ASQ) customer satisfaction survey by the Airports Council International in May.

    Incheon maintained the top position for the 10th year running, and among medium-sized airports Gimpo kept the lead for a fifth year.

    While the AEEA focuses on efficiency and productivity and is evaluated by airport experts, the ASQ is a survey on customer satisfaction. The Korean case is rare as it scores high on both efficiency and customer satisfaction, which tend to be negatively correlated.

    Korean airports score high in safety too. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, Korea has a 98.59 percent rate of effective implementation in safety audit information, second in the world only to the UAE, which boasts 98.86 percent.

    Korea was at the top until early this year. Since its opening in 2001, Incheon International Airport has not recorded any casualties.

    ◆ Immigration and Fees

    One of the keys to Korea's success is fast handling of departing and arriving passengers.

    In Incheon it takes an average of 11 minutes to process arriving passengers and 19 minutes for departures, which is far less than the 60 minutes and 45 minutes recommended by the ICAO. The number of lost bags is 0.7 for every 100,000, compared to the world average of 14.6.

    By cutting fees, Korean airports attracted more airlines and passengers. Airport fees here are around 30 to 70 percent of what other airports in Asia charge.

    Jeju airport has frozen passenger fees since 2003, and has not raised charges for airlines in eight years. In Jeju, the airport also took advantage of a visa waiver. Since the waiver was extended to Chinese nationals, the number of Chinese tourists has risen from 182,304 in 2010 to 913,271 in 2014.

    The growth rate of passengers at Jeju airport from 2011 to 2012 was 23 percent, the highest in Asia and much higher than the Asian average of 6.5 percent.

    One aviation expert said, "Chinese airports are inefficient because a considerable part is used by the state. Japanese airports cost too much to run. I expect a steep growth in the number of passengers using Korean airports, especially Chinese tourists, so the country needs to think about how to maintain the current levels of service, efficiency and safety."

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