Hong Kong - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on the authorities in Hong Kong to move forward with plans for a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport.

“Hong Kong outperforms its population size on the world stage because of its connectivity. That drives the economy and creates jobs. To protect the airport’s competitiveness, sufficient capacity is needed to support growth. The $900 million midfield terminal project will provide the passenger handling capability. But the current two runways are near saturation. I am here to make a strong plea to move forward with a third runway,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO in an address to the Aerospace Forum Asia in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong International Airport was planned in 1992 to handle 87 million passengers and 9 million tonnes of cargo. Growth has been faster than anyone could have predicted. At the same time, the 60 movement per hour cap on aircraft movements limits capacity to much less than this. Even raising runway movements to 68 per hour as proposed by the Civil Aviation Department, capacity will only be 55 million passengers. In 2010, the airport handled 51 million passengers so it is already operating at about 90% of capacity.‬ In April, public consultations on the Airport Master Plan 2030 will open with a third runway being a big consideration.

“The phenomenal growth of air transport in Hong Kong has outpaced all projections taken in the early 90’s. If Hong Kong wants to continue to gain the economic benefits of a growing aviation industry a third runway will be needed. You may disagree if it will be needed in 2015 or 2020, or some other date. But it will be needed and the time to start planning is now,” said Bisignani.

Bisignani noted that aviation employs 250,000 people and supports 8% of Hong Kong’s GDP. Moreover, Hong Kong is home to 1,300 regional offices employing 140,000 people who are dependant on efficient air links.

Bisignani also commented on air traffic management in the Pearl River Delta region.

“The Pearl River Delta ranks among the top three global Air Traffic Control problems that need to be fixed—along with achieving a Single European Sky and implementing NextGen in the US. Incremental progress is being made. In 2009, new arrival routes shortened each flight from the Mainland of China, Europe and Southeast Asia by 210 kilometers. Last year, 10 conditional routes on the mainland side helped with further savings. The challenge is to keep pace with the industry’s growth,” said Bisignani.

Bisignani noted major achievements including the opening of the IATA 1 route in 2006 followed by 21 additional routes cutting a total of 2,600 nautical miles of distance, six new entry points for Polar and European operations and the 2007 introduction of Reduced Vertical Separation Minima.

“These are major advancements for which the Chinese Air Traffic Management Bureau should be congratulated. But the challenge is growing exponentially. Airspace is a finite resource from which we are working together to squeeze even more efficiency. The key will be in releasing more military airspace for civilian use. Our successes over the last decade have built the trust that can guide to a comprehensive solution that meets the needs of the airlines, travelers and the military. IATA is here to help,” said Bisignani.

On Monday, IATA announced its 2010-2014 traffic growth forecast for 3.3 billion people to be traveling in 2014—800 million more than in 2009.

Forecast highlights for China are:

  • The number of Chinese domestic travelers is expected to grow from 198 million travelers in 2009 to 379 million in 2014. This 13.9% average annual growth is the fastest and second largest among domestic markets.
  • Chinese international travel is expected to expand from 49.2 million passengers in 2009 to 82.1 million in 2014. This 10.8% average annual growth ranks China as the fastest growing market. By 2014, it will be the eighth largest market in the world.
  • Chinese international air cargo is expected to grow from 2.1 million tonnes in 2009 to 3.8 million tonnes in 2014. This 11.7% average annual growth is the second fastest in the world and will rank China as the world’s fifth largest market for international cargo.

Forecast highlight for Hong Kong SAR are:

  • The forecast anticipates that the Hong Kong market will grow by 6.7% annually from 45 million international passengers in 2009 to 62.2 million in 2014. In 2014, Hong Kong will rank as the tenth largest market for international travel.
  • Hong Kong’s air cargo business is expected to grow from 3 million tonnes of cargo in 2009 to 5.3 million tonnes by 2014. This 12.2% average annual growth is the fastest in the world and will make Hong Kong the world’s second largest international air cargo hub in 2014.

The forecasts are a consensus of airline and industry sources.

View Giovanni Bisignani's full speech

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Notes for Editors:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 230 airlines comprising 93% of scheduled international air traffic.
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