South Korea’s Incheon International Airport is expected to be the fifth-busiest airport in the world after annual international passenger traffic at the country’s main gateway hit the record high of 67.68 million last year.
According to Incheon International Airport Corp. (IIAC) on Wednesday, Incheon International Airport’s total annual passenger traffic reached all-time high 68.26 million in 2018, up 10 percent from a year ago. The airport handled total 387,000 flights, up 7.6 percent during the same period, and the total number of international transfer passengers also increased 9.6 percent to 8.02 million last year.
In particular, the number of international passengers last year rose 10 percent on year to record 67.68 million. IIAC expects that Incheon International Airport would be the fifth-busiest airport in the world in terms of international passenger volume in 2018, a significant milestone since it handled 14.5 million international passengers in 2001 when it first opened. In 2017, it was the seventh-busiest.
The surge in the number of international passengers last year came on the growing number of foreign travelers during peak and holiday seasons. Group visitors during PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February also contributed to the jump.
By region, the number of international passengers increased in all routes except for Oceania and the Middle East.
In particular, the number of international passengers from China rose 14.2 percent last year to 12.14 million passengers, recovering from a sharp decline two years ago due to the diplomatic conflict between Korea and China over Seoul’s deployment of U.S. anti-missile system.
The number of international passengers from Southeast Asia rose 14.4 percent over the same period, while Japan up 12.5 percent and Europe up 11.1 percent.
A growth in low-cost carriers’ traffic also helped lift international traffic. Last year, a total 20.76 million passengers traveled through the airport using budget airlines, up 20 percent from a year earlier.
A total 115,000 flights were operated by LLCs, up 18.6 percent during the same period. Passengers traveling on low-cost carriers accounted for a record 30.7 percent of total passengers, marking the first time for the figure to surpass 30 percent.
Lifted by growth in the number of domestic and foreign travelers, IIAC raised a record 2.64 trillion won ($2.4 billion) in sales last year, up 8.5 percent from a year earlier.
By Ji Hong-goo and Lee Eun-joo
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]