Air Transport World

'Looming crisis' in Asia/Pacific. (airport/airway congestion)

Even as the region's cities vie for primary gateway status, airport/airway congestion could choke its facilities virtually simultaneously.

The air-traffic and airport congestion horrors of North America and Europe, so far confined to the most popular hubs in the Asia/Pacific region, are about to become severe constraints throughout what has become the world's fastest-growing economic market. By 1992, according to regional authorities, aviation-industry growth could be hindered only by the ability of regional airports and air routes to handle it. Although $40 billion worth of new-airport development is under way aimed at easing the crush, industry officials are urging high-level political decisions to remedy what IATA calls "a looming crisis."

Indeed, airport congestion is going to be only one of many aviation issues that Asia/Pacific countries will confront virtually simultaneously. IATA Regional Director Akira Kato notes that liberalization of market access, changes in capacity and pricing patterns, privatization, multinational ownership and alliances, and developing CRSs all will combine to change the distribution system and marketing strategies significantly, even as regional governments and airlines grapple with the expansion of airports, management of air-traffic control, training of pilots and maintenance personnel, improved security and modernization of equipment. While governments seek to update the administrative and legal machinery to handle the growth, customs and immigration officers are coming under pressure to keep the queues moving to prevent aircraft-dispatch delays.

"Hub of Asia" competition

The situation is of concern because aviation has become a requirement, playing a major role in propelling the region into its current position of preeminence. It is indispensable to the development of national currency earners. Cities such as Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore are competing furiously to become the "aviation hub of Asia," and others are entering the ring. While long-haul passenger traffic commands most of the attention, two of the most important but less glamorous growth areas are air cargo and domestic/regional flights, with servicing needs on the ground and in the air just as important as the long hauls.

A report by the SRI International consulting firm forecasts that expanded exports of manufactured goods, increased per capita gross domestic product (GDP) and stronger industrial specialization will continue to make the Asia/Pacific the world's fastest-growing economic region. Moreover, the "quantum leap" of Japan as an economic and political power could lead to "greater co-prosperity," with the investment potential of Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia not far behind.

This economic boom, say Mohammed Taib, secretary-general of the Orient Airlines Association, has contributed to double-digit growth in passenger and cargo traffic of the OAA airlines in the last two years (ATW, 2/90). "The expectation that it will continue to do so in the next five to 10 years will mean more challenges for the OAA member airlines." Based on limited data collection, Taib says, total incoming traffic in the Asia/Pacific cities reached neary 35 million passengers in 1988-89, up 25% over 1987-88. Of that traffic, 76% was intraregional.

He says that outbound traffic from Asia/Pacific cities reached 40. …

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