Why Are Airplanes from Around the World Coming to Incheon Airport?

“Giant Global Hub Airport”

This is a vision set forth by Incheon Airport at its groundbreaking ceremony for the *Phase 4 Construction Project. What makes becoming a “hub airport” the airport’s goal?

Simply put, a hub airport is an airport that is “central” to a certain region. This post will look at what exactly a hub airport is and what an airport needs in order to become a hub airport 😊.

This project aims to expand Incheon Airport’s Terminal 2, build Runway 4, and extend a transport network with its apron by 2024. Once the project is completed, Incheon Airport is expected to reinvent itself as a giant hub airport that can annually accommodate 106 million international passengers.


Hub & spoke may summarize how aviation markets around the world are currently being operated. Does the term sound a bit unfamiliar to you? The “hub” refers to the center of a carriage wheel. The “spoke” refers to each of the bars connecting the center of a wheel to its outer edge.

As such, the hub & spoke system connects a large hub airport” that represents a major region in the world with many other smaller spoke airports. A hub airport in Northeast Asia may be an airport where passengers who come from the US and Europe in large airplanes transfer to Japan and China.

Since being a hub airport allows airlines to gather and transport passengers to their respective designations, reduces costs caused by an increase the volume of transportation, and increases the number of flights, many countries try to build a hub airport. Incheon Airport, which opened on March 29, 2001, is one of the airports which claim to be a hub airport!


The reason why many countries are trying to foster hub airports is because of a hub airport’s massive economic effect.

If an airport becomes a hub airport, it will bring in many people and goods, right? Many facilities such as restaurants and shopping malls will also sprout up in an airport where many people are gathered. Revenue is also huge in an airport with many passengers. The fact that many major global companies are headquartered near hub airports demonstrates the hub airport’s economic value.

However, having many passengers does not necessarily make an airport a hub airport! The four conditions for becoming a hub airport that were suggested by airport experts can be summarized in the following.

  1. Routes must be diversified and operated efficiently with a large number of flights per route.
  2. It must be easy to transfer and connect with other modes of transportation like railways or highways.
  3. Airport fees must be affordable.
  4. Key airlines must use the airport as their hub.

In other words, an airport can become a hub airport, which gathers and disperses passengers and cargo, after its traffic and connection demand reach a certain level. To increase connection demand, many routes must be developed around an airport, and it must ensure competitiveness in efficiency with a large number of flights per route. In addition, it is important to offer easy transfers depending on the geographical location, connection to other modes of transport, affordable airport fees, or key airlines in order to meet the conditions to become a hub airport.


Experts consider connectivity to be important for becoming a hub airport. In that case, how does Incheon Airport achieve connectivity as a hub airport?

Incheon Airport has a rich network connecting 194 cities in 57 countries as of January 2020, compared to 117 cities in 34 countries in 2001. From Incheon Airport, any airplane can fly to 120 cities in Northeast Asia within 3 hours and 36 cities just in China. In 2018, Incheon Airport transported 680 million passengers and 2.9 million tons of cargo, demonstrating its reputation as a hub airport in Northeast Asia.

Its internal connectivity is also extraordinary. Incheon Airport is connected to Seoul through the Airport Railroad Express and limousine buses with easy and connected railways in Seoul, which allow you to travel to major regions in Korea. Based on this accessibility, the airport is becoming a hub of international business and exchange.

In January 2018, Terminal 2 opened successfully, increasing its capacity and operating 24/7 to provide better services to transferring passengers. With its state-of-the-art facilities, the airport has reduced its immigration time to one third of what is recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Incheon Airport also differentiates itself from other airports with various convenience facilities like stores, transfer lounges, and programs for culture and art facilities!

Today, we briefly looked at the definition and conditions of a hub airport as well as Incheon Airport as a hub airport. Since hub airports have many benefits, wouldn’t you think airports in other countries are trying to get ahead? Airports in neighboring countries such as Singapore Changi Airport, Beijing Daxing International Airport, and Narita International Airport are competing fiercely to become hub airports! In the next post, we will look at the efforts Incheon Airport is making in order to solidify its position as a hub airport! We look forward to seeing you in the next post 😉.

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