Awards, honour and prestige aside, provide a valuable insight on recent aiport developments. Here are the best of 2018 in Asia Pacific and the Middle East, according to CAPA.

Seoul Incheon Airport - Large Airport of the Year (over 30 million annual passengers)

In January 2018 – just ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea - Incheon Airport (ICN) opened Terminal 2, which now provides customer service improvements including for transit passengers. The spacious high-tech terminal is the new hub for Korean Air and its SkyTeam partners.

Incheon’s Terminal 2 lifts the airport’s capacity to 72 million annual passengers and further upgrades are planned to increase capacity to 100 million passengers by 2023. Incheon handled 62 million passengers in 2017, an increase of 8% compared to 2016. Incheon could reach 70 million passengers this year, having recorded 11% growth through the first three quarters. Traffic has more than doubled since 2009, when the airport handled less than 29 million passengers.

Incheon currently has nonstop passenger flights to over 150 international destinations. Incheon has emerged as the leading hub for East Asia-North America traffic and now has 13 destinations in North America - with two more to be added in Apr-2019 as Korean Air launches Boston and Delta Air Lines launches Minneapolis. Incheon is poised for further East Asia-North America growth as Delta pulls down its Tokyo Narita hub and focuses on Incheon as part of a newly implemented JV with Korean.

“Incheon has emerged as one of the world’s best transit hubs and is now undeniably one of Asia’s leading airports,” according to Peter Harbison, executive chairman CAPA. “Incheon has upped its game with an extraordinary new terminal that provides an exceptional level of service and significantly improves Korean Air’s position as a leading network airline.”

Mactan-Cebu - Medium Airport of the Year (over 10 million annual passengers)

Mactan-Cebu (CEB) also won the award after opening of Terminal 2, which provides ample capacity to support international growth and offers the best airport passenger experience (by a wider margin) in the Philippines.

The terminal lifts the airport capacity from 4.5 million to 12.5 million. It is used for international operations, which has grown rapidly in recent years, while the original terminal is now used for domestic flights. The terminal took only three years to build with construction beginning less than a year after the airport was transferred to a new private sector consortium consisting of India’s GMR and Philippine company Megawide.

Annual traffic reached the 10 million passengers in 2017. Total passenger traffic at Cebu grew at a consistent 14% clip in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and has accelerated this year, reaching 26% in the first eight months of 2018.

Mactan-Cebu’s international traffic has more than doubled since 2014, when the airport handled only 1.7 million international passengers. International traffic grew 29% in 2017 to 3.1 million and is on pace to exceed 5 million this year following 65% growth through the first eight months.

All three main Philippine airline groups have been pursuing rapid expansion at Cebu, which they are now using the airport as an alternative hub for transfer traffic. The airport also has attracted eight new foreign airlines over the last three years and is currently served by 16 foreign carriers. Mactan-Cebu’s network has expanded rapidly and currently consists of 24 international and 16 domestic destinations.

Johor Bahru Senai - Small Airport of the Year (less than 10 million annual passengers)

Senai Airport (JHB) was selected for its role in using new biometrics technology and support of the LCC model, which has driven rapid growth.

In early 2018 Senai became the first airport in Asia to use biometric facial recognition technology, providing a seamless self-service travel experience from check-in to boarding. Senai is the trial airport for AirAsia’s Fast Airport Clearance Experience System (FACES), which offers AirAsia passengers the opportunity to use cutting edge biometrics technology at self-boarding gates. By embracing the new technology, Senai has improved customer service and efficiency, enabling the airport to accommodate further rapid growth.

AirAsia is the largest airline group at Senai and currently accounts for nearly 80% of total seat capacity, including 86% of international capacity and 76% of domestic capacity. Senai has emerged as one of AirAsia’s fastest growing hubs and the group now operates 17 routes from the airport.

Senai overall now has 19 routes, including 12 domestic and seven international links. Passenger traffic has nearly tripled over the last six years, from only 1.4 million in 2012 to a projected 3.5 million in 2018. The airport handled 3.1 million passengers in 2017 and has recorded growth of at least 10% every year since 2013. International traffic has grown from only 17,000 passengers in 2012 to 444,000 passengers in 2017.

Senai has been privately owned since 2003 and is the only airport in Malaysia outside the Malaysia Airports portfolio. It has grown faster than the Malaysian market average the last six years. Senai is located near the southern Malaysian city of Johor Bahru and is less than 50km from Singapore. While an earlier strategy involved it targeting passengers heading to or from Singapore, Senai in recent years has successfully focused on the local market, attracting several new LCC services which have helped stimulate demand.

About CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence 

The CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence have recognised strategic leadership in the aviation industry since 2002. CAPA Awards for Excellence for Asia Pacific (including the Middle East) were announced during CAPA Asia Aviation & Corporate Travel Summit on November 8, 2018, in Singapore. The awards are not driven by customer surveys or sponsorship.