Thursday, August 14, 2008

Incheon Airport

Incheon International Airport (IIA) (IATA: ICN, ICAO: RKSI) (Korean: 인천국제공항) is the largest airport in South Korea, and one of the largest and busiest in Asia. Rated as the best airport in the world, it received the full 5-star ranking by Skytrax, the prestigious recognition shared only by Hong Kong International Airport and Singapore Changi Airport.

Located 30 minutes away from Seoul, the capital and largest city of South Korea, Incheon International Airport is the main hub for Korean Air, Asiana Airlines and Polar Air Cargo. Additionally, Incheon Tiger Airways the start up Korean subsidiary of Tiger Airways based in Singapore is seeking to base itself at Incheon International Airport.

The airport opened for business in early 2001, replacing the international function of the old Gimpo (formerly Kimpo International) Airport. Gimpo International Airport now serves only domestic destinations, except shuttle flights to Tokyo International Airport (Haneda), Japan and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, China.

The airport serves as a hub for international civilian air transportation and cargo traffic in East Asia. Security facilities are state-of-the-art and medical inspection equipment is also very advanced, in response to terrorist threats and various epidemics in southern Asia. As a result, Incheon International Airport is considered Asia's most technologically facilitated airport.

Incheon International Airport is also currently Asia's sixth busiest airport in terms of passengers, the world's fifth busiest airport in terms of cargo and freight, and the world's eleventh busiest airport in terms of international passengers.


Incheon International Airport is located west of Incheon, on Yeongjong-Yongyu Island on the West Coast. In the past, there were two separate islands of Yeongjong and Yongyu but the distance between them that were once covered by the sea got filled to form one island from two. Both of these islands were part of the city of Incheon.

It is connected to the mainland by Incheon International Airport Expressway (Expressway 130), a part of which is Yeongjong Bridge. The expressway also connects Gimpo Airport and provide connections between domestic flight service with international air traffic, an advantage that makes it far easier to travel from southern Korean regions to Incheon, and then to airports all over the globe. The airport is served by frequent bus service from all parts of South Korea as well as by traditional ferry service between Yeongjong pier and Incheon. Airport limousines operate around the clock from Seoul to Incheon, and several backup highway buses escort people from places within and outside Seoul.

The Incheon International Airport Railroad link to Gimpo International Airport (and Seoul Subway Line 5) opened on March 23, 2007, with a further extension to Seoul Station due for completion by January 2010.

The airport was awarded the "Best in Service Award in Class" at the 1st International Conference on Airport Quality and Service by the IATA and the ACI, and ranked second in "Best Airport Worldwide", behind Hong Kong International Airport, and ahead of Singapore Changi Airport. It was also ranked No. 1 in the world by the Airports Council International.


After the Seoul Olympics of 1988, international air traffic to Korea was increasing at a tremendous rate. Especially as time progressed into the 90's, it became apparent that Gimpo International Airport could not keep up with the increase in air traffic. As such, in order to reduce the load on Gimpo International Airport, and establish a new airport which could become the center of air traffic in the region, construction of the airport began in November 1992. The airport was constructed on reclaimed land between Yeongjong Island and Youngyu Island. It took eight years to construct the airport, and an additional six months to test operate. The airport was officially opened in March 2001. The airport was designed to be constructed in multiple stages, more commonly known as phases. Currently, the airport is in the first phase, with the second phase construction progressing.

When the airport was first opened, there were numerous problems that broke out, most of them having to do with the baggage handling systems. In fact, the problem was first discovered during the test phase, but was never worked out in time. As a result, for a month after the airport opened, the system had to be operated on a semi-automatic mode. Nevertheless, most of the problems were worked out within a month, and the airport continued to operate normally, exceeding all expectations.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the airport’s security system was upgraded to state of the art systems, and medical inspection equipment was also upgraded in response to the various epidemics occurring in neighboring countries. In addition, following the advice of ICAO on upgrading various facilities as well as independently pursuing airport enhancements have caused the airport to be recognized as the most technologically advanced airport in Asia.

Due to the positive response towards the airport, its air traffic increased tremendously. By early 2002, it became apparent that the airport would be saturated by 2006. As a result, in February 2002, the construction of the second phase was initiated. Originally, the construction were supposed to have ended by December 2008. However, due to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the construction schedule was modified to allow the construction to end by July 2008.

On November 15, 2006, the Airbus A380 landed at the airport as part of the first leg of its certification trip. During the visit, the airport observed the operation of other air traffic especially during ground operations. In addition, the plane was docked into one of its boarding gates to ensure that the aircraft was fully compatible with the airport. The results were satisfactory, confirming that the airport would be fully Airbus A380 capable, from the runways to the taxiways, and up to every single boarding dock.

To further upgrade service, Incheon and major Korean logistics firm Hanjin Corporation (parent company of the Korean Flag Carrier, Korean Air) have signed a contract on 10 January 2008 to build a nine-story hospital near the airport. Once construction is complete in 2011, the Yeongjong Medical Center is expected to serve nearby residents and 30,000 domestic and international tourists who visit Korea every year to receive medical services.


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