IATA backs Hong Kong expansion call
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has joined the call for a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA).
Addressing the Aerospace Forum Asia in Hong Kong, IATA director general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani said: “Hong Kong outperforms its population size on the world stage because of its connectivity. That drives the economy and creates jobs.
“To protect the airport’s competitiveness, sufficient capacity is needed to support growth. The $900 million midfield terminal project will provide the passenger handling capability. But the current two runways are near saturation. I am here to make a strong plea to move forward with a third runway.”
HKIA was built in 1992 to handle 87 million passengers and 9 million tonnes of cargo, but the airport has grown much faster than expected. It is restricted by a limit of 60 movements per hour, though the Civil Aviation Department has proposed raising the cap to 68 movements per hour.
In April, public consultations on the Airport Master Plan 2030 will open with a third runway being a big consideration. A local think tank, Hong Kong Ideas Centre, argues this is vital since the airport is now operating at 93 percent capacity, and will be at saturation by 2017.
The group says it takes 10 years to construct an extra runway, so if development were to commence in 2011, the airport would still be operating at capacity from 2017 to 2021.
Meanwhile, competition from neighboring airports is increasing. Shanghai Pudong International Airport will expand from three runways to five by 2015, the report states. Incheon in Korea will have four and Kuala Lumpur five by 2020. Expansion is on the cards for Bangkok, Singapore and Taipei airports.
“Given the intense competition now facing us, we contend that Hong Kong has to address the third runway issue with a sense of utmost urgency, otherwise our competitive advantage will be diminished,” Patrick Lau, head of Hong Kong Ideas Centre’s airport study group, said in a statement.
IATA has forecast that the Hong Kong passenger market will grow by 6.7 percent annually from 45 million international in 2009 to 62.2 million in 2014. Airfreight is expected to grow from 3 million tonnes in 2009 to 5.3 million tonnes by 2014, the fastest growth rate in the world, which will make Hong Kong the world’s second largest international air cargo hub by 2014.
Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Ltd (HACTL), which handles around 70 percent of air cargo passing through Hong Kong, broke previous tonnage records in 2010 despite a slowing of growth in the third and fourth quarters. The final figure was 2.9 million tonnes, up 24.8 percent from the previous year and well ahead of the previous record high of 2.6 million tonnes achieved in 2007.
“Asian carriers are in a strong position as a result of the exploding demand in China, where consumer sentiment is high,” said Lilian Chan, HACTL’s executive director.
A robust economic recovery drove strong export demand throughout the year, HACTL said. Export tonnage reached 1.59 million tonnes, a year-on-year growth of 28.9 percent. Imports grew 18.8 percent against 2009 to 742,000 tonnes. With the relatively weak U.S. dollar, import volume from the U.S. increased 40.6 percent for the year. Total transhipment volume for 2010 was 568,000 tonnes, an increase of of 22 percent.
Overall volumes handled at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) also reached a record high last year, increasing 23.4 percent year-on-year to 4.1 million tonnes.
Cathay Pacific is building a state-of-the-art air cargo terminal at Hong Kong International Airport at a development cost of HK$5.5 billion. The new terminal, when completed in early 2013, will increase the airport's cargo handling capacity by 50 percent.