Seoul has emerged as one of the world’s largest aviation markets, with traffic poised to reach the 100 million passenger milestone in 2019 or 2020. The market has more than doubled in size since 2009, when there were 44 million passengers.
The Seoul market has become large enough – and is growing fast enough – to merit consideration of potential alternative airports to supplement Gimpo and Incheon. Cheongju, a joint military/commercial airport located an hour and a half to the south of Seoul, is vying for hub status as part of an ambitious aeropolis project.
The low cost start-up Aero K has selected Cheongju as its base, which should significantly accelerate the airport’s growth. Cheongju already counts the existing Korean LCCs Eastar Jet, Jeju Air and Jin Air as its largest airlines and may add an LCC terminal to cater to growth as Aero K and the existing competitors expand.
LCCs already account for more than 30% of passenger traffic at Incheon and will need to consider alternative hubs as Incheon approaches capacity. With improved ground connections to Seoul and lower costs, Cheongju Airport should be able to attract price sensitive leisure passengers travelling between South Korea and its three largest international markets – China, Japan and Vietnam.