Chek Lap Kok still up there with the best of them despite falling down ranking

International ranking might have brought airport down a peg or two but it is still up there with the best when it comes to what counts

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 3:30am

This year's Air Transport Research Society Global Benchmarking Report has downgraded Hong Kong International Airport from first place to fifth in its ranking of 195 airports worldwide.

The annual survey compares the performance of airports based on their financial statements, annual reports, traffic statistics, capacity and charges.

The site of the airport, Chek Lap Kok, was an island inhabited by about 20 families when the plan to build the air hub was announced.

It and the smaller island of Lam Chau were levelled and merged by reclaiming land to build a 12.4 square kilometre platform for the airport.

The farming and fishing villages on Chek Lap Kok were moved to a spot near Tung Chung on Lantau Island and they are now known as Chek Lap Kok Village.

After almost six years of construction and US$20 billion in building costs, the airport opened on July 4, 1998.

It is listed in Guinness World Records as being the most expensive airport in the world, and replaced the Kai Tak airport with its hair-raising runway.

Its construction was voted one of the top 10 construction achievements of the 20th century at the ConExpo conference in 1999.

The airport has had its fair share of controversies, however. Cathay Pacific flight CX889 from New York via Vancouver was the first commercial flight to touch down at the new airport, at 6.25am on July 6, 1998.

Within hours of that first flight, chaos broke out, with operational problems involving flight information systems, cargo handling, personnel training and passenger terminal infrastructure causing major problems that were not fully resolved for months.

But over the years since then it has grown in prestige internationally.

Hong Kong International Airport is now home to one of the world's largest passenger terminal buildings - it was the largest when opened in 1998.

It is also an important contributor to Hong Kong's economy, with about 60,000 workers.

About 90 airlines operate from the airport to more than 150 cities across the globe.

Last year the airport handled 56,057,751 passengers, making it the 12th busiest airport worldwide by passenger traffic. It also surpassed Memphis International Airport to become the world's busiest airport for cargo traffic.