Incheon International Airport is celebrating its 22nd anniversary on 29th March, having recently surpassed a cumulative transfer passenger count of 100 million as of 2nd March. The number of transfer passengers at Incheon Airport has steadily increased since recording 1.63 million passengers at the time of its opening in 2001, reaching 7.23 million passengers in 2019. In 2021, which was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number plummeted to around 540,000. However, in 2022, it grew by 400 percent compared to the previous year, recording 2.71 million passengers, showing a fast recovery trend compared to competing airports in China and Japan.
The world’s second-largest logistics hub in Northeast Asia
Incheon Airport, which has continuously developed logistics infrastructure and networks, is also elevating its status as a Northeast Asian logistics hub airport, processing the second-largest amount of international cargo in the world both in 2021 and 2022.
As of December 2022, Incheon Airport’s cargo-only routes are connected to 107 cities in 43 countries through 25 airlines. The destinations are divided by region, including 20 in China, six in Japan, 10 in Southeast Asia, 27 in North America, 5 in Central and South America, and 18 in Europe. Including passenger planes, Incheon Airport’s aviation network connects 152 cities in 53 countries 365 days a year without stopping.
Steady investment in logistics infrastructure and prompt response to logistics trends
Incheon International Airport Corporation (IIAC) has revealed that constant investment in logistics infrastructure development and rapid response to the latest logistics trends have been key growth factors behind the steady growth of Incheon Airport’s air cargo.
The Incheon Free Economic Zone, which includes the Incheon Airport Logistics Complex and cargo terminal areas, provides customers with a more competitive environment through convenient customs procedures, tariff benefits, and various incentives.
In April 2005, 2,093,000 square meters were designated as a free trade zone, followed by the expansion of the first airport logistics complex by 922,000 square meters in December 2007, and the designation of a new second airport logistics complex of 326,000 square meters in April 2020.
There are 40 logistics companies and two manufacturing companies in the airport logistics complex, and those tenants are guaranteed free manufacturing, logistics, and trade activities, as well as receiving low rent and tariff deferral benefits.
In addition, a large-scale global distribution center (GDC) for e-commerce with a total project cost of approximately USD 28 million (KRW 31 billion) is expected to be built in the Incheon Airport Free Economic Zone in August 2023.
When the GDC is completed, it is expected to generate approximately 8,000 tons of cargo and about 240 new jobs, as well as attracting more than $20 million (approximately KRW 25 billion).
IATA CEIV Fresh certification and CEIV Pharma recertification
As demand for high-value air cargo, such as bioscience and cold chain, continues to grow, the Incheon International Airport Community, consisting of Korean Air, Asiana Airlines, and global logistics company DB Schenker Korea, obtained certification for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma) in June 2019. According to regulations requiring recertification every three years, they went through a thorough verification process in September 2022 and obtained recertification. IATA CEIV Pharma is an international standard certification system introduced by IATA to ensure stable air transportation quality for sensitive pharmaceuticals, such as vaccines.
In addition, the Incheon International Airport Community, consisting of IIAC, Asiana Airlines, LX Pantos, and Seoul Airport Cargo, also obtained certification for the IATA Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Perishable Logistics (CEIV Fresh) on November 22, 2022. IATA CEIV Fresh is an international standard certification system introduced by IATA in 2019 to ensure stable air transportation quality for fresh cargo under strict cold chain management. Incheon Airport became the fourth airport in the world to obtain certification, following Hong Kong, Oman, and Changi airports.
The certification of CEIV Fresh by the Incheon International Airport Community is expected to serve as a positive factor in attracting demand for fresh cargo, as it demonstrates Incheon Airport’s expertise in fresh cargo transportation facilities and operations to shippers.
Incheon International Airport Corporation is in the process of obtaining IATA CEIV Lithium Battery (CEIV Li-Batt) Certification, which was introduced to solve transportation accidents of lithium batteries in the global air cargo market. To obtain this certification, Incheon International Airport Corporation is working with 10 companies, including Korean Air.
An official from IIAC said, “We will make every effort to become the best in the world not only in the passenger sector but also in the air cargo sector. To achieve this, we are pursuing a business of expanding cargo terminals of world-renowned airlines, such as FedEx and UPS, at Incheon Airport, actively attracting global shipping centers of logistics companies in the free trade zone of nearly 600,000 square meters to secure cargo volume and planning to have dedicated terminals for fresh cargo such as semiconductors and pharmaceuticals.”