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Kansai Airport voices concern over Tokyo expansion

  • Expansion at Tokyo airports could harm the prospects of Kansai Airport;
  • One year on, 2nd runway has helped freight growth, but not passenger;
  • Japanese travelling public still not sold on the idea of so many airports in one region and Tokyo airports still predominate;
  • The airport has not completely solved its engineering problems.

The 2010 airport expansion at Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports could have a negative impact on Osaka’s offshore Kansai International Airport (KIAC), according to KIAC’s executive vice president, Tadakuni Hirano.

Mr Hirano stated that there is the possibility that airlines currently operating to Kansai Airport might shift operations to Haneda or Narita after the 2010 metropolitan region airport expansion. This might affect passenger and cargo volumes at Kansai. On the other hand, he hinted demand in the metropolitan region is high, so added capacity might fill up quickly.

Kansai International Airport Co began operating its second runway in Aug-07, in time for the 2007 World Athletics Championships, hoping to achieve its goal of becoming an Asian hub for international air cargo. The airport made its debut 14 years ago with a single 3,500 m runway that has suffered from engineering problems that caused it to sink. With the new 4,000 m runway, it aims to achieve full-scale 24-hour operations, the first of its kind among Japanese airports. It was built between 1999 and Dec-06.

The second runway was expected to ease congestion during peak hours and to offer greater convenience for international cargo carriers that typically operate late nights and early mornings. The company estimates that the volume of international air cargo handled at the airport will triple in the next ten years. The runway was opened with the intention of being used only for landing in principle and without an additional terminal or other passenger facilities for the time being.

Compared with the favourable freight operation environment, Kansai Airport has been hit by declining passenger numbers. Demand for flights to and from China, which soon hosts the Beijing Olympic Games, is expanding, but many long-distance routes, chiefly to and from the United States, have been cancelled.

With the new runway, the airport aimed to clear the goal of generating about 130,000 departures and arrivals per year.

Osaka Kansai international capacity share (seats): week commencing 07-Jul-08

Source: Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation

The main complaints about Kansai are:

  1. Runway 2 was built on another artificial island that, like the first, is sinking, albeit more slowly than its predecessor;
  2. The competition with the existing inland Itami Airport and the new Kobe Airport, another offshore facility, which opened in 2006, is excessive and unnecessary;
  3. It means there are two international airports and one national airport all within 60 minutes of each other;
  4. Kansai has among the highest landing fees worldwide.

This is an excerpt from the Jul-08 edition of Airport Investor Monthly, to be published later this week.

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