• Wed
  • Jul 23, 2014
  • Updated: 5:27am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Hong Kong airport must meet global demand or risk falling behind

Julia Yan says the arguments put up by opponents of third runway do not stand up to scrutiny

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2014, 6:05pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2014, 4:03am

To meet future air traffic demand, the Airport Authority is proposing to expand Hong Kong International Airport by building a third runway. The environmental impact assessment report on the project is now available for public inspection.

There have been questions about whether Hong Kong needs a third runway. Historically, air traffic growth has been closely associated with economic development. As Hong Kong is an open economy, this connection is even stronger. If a third runway is not built, its position as an international aviation hub, as well as its overall competitiveness, will be severely undermined.

Those who believe Hong Kong needs only two runways argue that London Heathrow Airport's two-runway operations allow it to "maximise the value of the runways" without affecting its competitiveness. However, this observation is not based on fact. The reality is that the number of destinations Heathrow serves has dropped 12 per cent over the past decade, while two of Europe's other major aviation hubs, Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport and Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport, have increased their destinations. This has caused the UK an estimated loss of £14 billion (HK$186 billion) a year in terms of value of trade. Do we want Hong Kong to follow in London's footsteps and give away our hard-earned aviation hub status?

Some also argue that the airport's current two runways should be able to accommodate 87 million passengers annually, a projection made in 1992. This argument ignores the fact that prudent planning means responding to market changes in a timely manner.

Aviation is a global industry that has evolved considerably over the past 20 years. We have seen advances and changes in aircraft technology and type, development of air networks, and leisure and business travel trends. If we planned our airport facilities and systems based on assumptions made some 20 years ago, then we would have lagged significantly behind market demand. To incorporate current developments into our planning, the Airport Authority updates the airport's 20-year master plan every five years.

Finally, some have suggested turning Hong Kong airport into a boutique airport so that it will not need further expansion for the next few decades. However, this would defeat the airport's mission to provide all travellers with an extensive air network - including, most importantly, the people of Hong Kong. Air transport services should not be biased towards a minority of the population who can afford "boutique" services.

Since the airport began its two-runway operations, air traffic volumes have been hitting new records. In terms of passenger throughput and volume of cargo carried per aircraft, the airport is the world's most efficient airport. This achievement is the result of the government's resolute decision to expand by building a new airport at Chek Lap Kok.

The latest predictions by international air traffic expert IATA Consulting indicate that by 2030, Hong Kong airport's passenger throughput will reach almost 100 million and its cargo volume will grow to almost 9 million tonnes.

Imagine if Hong Kong were still using the single-runway Kai Tak airport. Would the people of Hong Kong be able to travel all over the world for their holidays, choosing from over 180 destinations served by more than 100 airlines? Would business travellers be able to enjoy the convenience of frequent air services and select the flight most suited to their schedule?

The bottleneck of an airport's capacity lies in its runway capacity, not in ground facilities such as terminal buildings. Today, Hong Kong airport handles an average of 1,050 flights a day, very close to the two runways' practical maximum capacity of 1,200 aircraft movements.

If Hong Kong airport does not build a third runway, it will not be able to increase its daily flight movements to meet air traffic demand. The result will be that its aviation network will shrink, with fewer direct-flight destinations and frequencies. There will also be less room for new airlines (such as low-cost carriers) to operate in Hong Kong.

As a result of the shortfall in supply, airfares will go up and service standards will inevitably decline. Both the people of Hong Kong and travellers from around the world will suffer. In the long term, Hong Kong's advantage as an international aviation hub will be weakened, and our economy and employment market will be undermined.

In addition to the damage caused to our aviation and tourism industries, the competitiveness of Hong Kong as a centre of financial services, trade and logistics will fall behind neighbouring cities.

Hong Kong International Airport owes its successes to the dedication and hard work of the people of Hong Kong. Likewise, we should nurture and treasure this valuable asset by making the right decision, one that will secure the sustainable development of Hong Kong.

Julia Yan is general manager of strategic planning and development at the Airport Authority

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captam
@"The bottleneck of an airport's capacity lies in its runway capacity".
This statement is hogwash. The main bottle neck is the capacity of the air traffic control corridors leading in and out of Hong Kong, already choked because of the AA.'s stupidity in allowing CLK to be used by small and inefficient aircraft.
The aviation "hub" you seek to protect, will inevitably move north to Mainland cities because it makes no sense to fly people and cargo several hundred kms south to Hong Kong, tranship them and then fly them back north again.
Finally ,please stop the AA from propagating the lie that Hong Kong's airport and aviation needs to keep growing to create jobs for Hong Kong people . We already have a labour shortage in Hong Kong. To operate, airports need thousands of low grade of skills jobs, which do nothing to improve the livelihoods of Hong Kong's lower paid. Bigger aviation only enriches the elite and fattens the pocket of shareholders of Hong Kong's major carrier, the British-controlled airline Cathay Pacific.
emohharry@hotmail.com
What is so strange that a hometown airline has about 40 some percent of slots at its home airport? This "British-controlled" airline you are out to attack has a predominant wide-body fleet. HKG is NOT DXB, where all things aviation-related are probably owned by the person. I do not see that it is so scandalous that the Government looks after a genuine global, home-grown industrial champion like CX from time to time. As a private enterprise, how is CX going to invest billions of USDs annually in its employees, modern fleet, passenger products and spend on exceptional items like the new cargo terminal without a deep pocket?
Is that sufficient when an executive jet is A380? Efficiency is not judged only by the numbers of A380s and B747s flying serving the airport! The B757-200 has a maximum capacity of 239 passengers. Why don´t you force airlines to fly planes into HKG with jets in maximum passenger capacity?
Even the airport check-in agents take home with nice pay checks. The so-called labor shortage in HK is actually people do not want to slave away in restaurants, which I do no blame them for at all. Don´t you see how overstaffed restaurants and shops are in HK?
HKG aims to be the flagship airport of the PRD, which is logical, because most global gateways possess such large catchment areas. CDG, FRA, AMS, ZRH and CPH all have sprawling long-distance rail, feeder flight, trucking and highway networks. Even LHR is seriously looking into having a long-distance rail station.
emohharry@hotmail.com
HKG is on the rise as it becomes a key player on the North America - ASEAN & v.v. traffic and a larger player on the Kangaroo Route as no jets will be able to fly these routes nonstop in economically viable loads in the decades to come. In global aviation, there are North America, ASEAN, Australia and Europe for HKG as well, and commerical aviation is one industry which Hong Kong can thrive without any excessive reliance on the mainland.
Many global gateways actually start receiving intercontinental flight arrivals as early as 0500 and handle a large amount of cargo flights in the middle of the night. The peak hours for passenger flights at DXB are actually early morning hours.
At the end of the day, it is the ignorance, prejudice and hatred of the rest of you to come up with fallacy, hogwash, whatever.
pjp
There used to be articles in this newspaper (Jake???) that said something along the lines that it is the airlines companies who are creating this perceived shortage by using smaller planes than was intended. The original plan that was given funding used wide body aircraft to calculate the number of passengers per day. But the airlines have switched to smaller planes that carry less passengers, so the allocated slots now seem inadequate but the overall passenger count is still less than was originally planned for.
Make the airlines pay for the runway, and if the original plan was to use larger planes with higher numbers of passengers then why have they been allowed to now use smaller planes?
emohharry@hotmail.com
The average numbers of passengers per plane to and from HKG are actually quite high, on par with LHR. And yes, it is anormal to operate an airport with wide-body aircraft only. Kaitak was in fact an absurdity. More than 75% of the CX group aircraft are wide-body. Again, airlines and Chanel and the like flagship boutiques are paying for the runway in fees and rents, not you with your pitiful passenger fees!
pjp
Ok but do you have any numbers or reports to refer to? Because what you said contradicts what I remember the news reports (several years ago I think) said. Comparisons with LHR are fine but I am referring to the planned vs. the real output.
If Chanel etc.. are paying for the runway why go cap in hand to the govt?
emohharry@hotmail.com
LHR in 2013
****www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-13/heathrow-defies-capacity-cap-as-superjumbo-aids-passenger-surge.html
At least 154 per plane
HKG in 2013
****www.hongkongairport.com/eng/pdf/business/statistics/2013e.pdf
At least 192 per plane
People do not realize or cannot accept that airlines are free to put just 100 ultra luxurious first class suites in A380s and use them to fly in and out of HKG if they can make most profits to do so.
Earlier, I wrote,
"You should storm the legco to force the government to reinvest the dividends on the people" since the Airport Authority has been making massive profits since day 1 and paying all the dividends to the government.
I also wrote,
"Governments should invest in airports & make the commercial users pay for them in fees and rent."
The Government simply does not exist just to protect dolphins and cabbage patches in your villages.
emohharry@hotmail.com
The ignorant, self-righteous NIMBYs strike again. There are at least three airports in Paris & they all provide schedule passenger services. Paris Charles de Gaulle CDG is a global aviation HUB; Air France actually runs a clock-work hub-&-spoke there. Paris Orly & Nice are "boutique airports," LHR, CDG, AMS, FRA, MUC & even ZRH are global aviation hubs. Concerning FRA, the population of the city of Frankfurt is less than 10% of HK´s & the passengers covered by FRA´s land catchment area are no more than 150% of the HK population.
How much tax exactly & actually are the HK taxpayers are paying since the tax rates are so low here? The Airport Authority has been making record profits since day 1 & handing almost all of them to the government! You should storm the legco to force the government to reinvest the dividends on the people.
Go to Amazon for a few academic airport management & study in details what transfer passengers are good for. Since LHR cannot compete on destinations, airlines drop some of them & compete on frequencies. HKG is no LHR but more like FRA in terms of importance! What is the opportunity cost of not having a competiive global aviation gateway? Governments should invest in airports & make the commercial users pay for them in fees and rent. You all want democracy & static development, no more finance, no WKCD, no extra runways, etc. How are you going to fight for your precious democracy if HK stops developing, lags benihd, & turns into irrelevance?
Hum-Balang
And having a third runway will grow HK economically?
emohharry@hotmail.com
What is the true opportunity cost of loosing a competiive global aviation gateway in the not so distant future without the third runway?

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