Get It Right Before Opening Incheon

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Get It Right Before Opening Incheon

With its opening only weeks away, the Incheon International Airport is still besieged by problems. Besides those that have been pointed out a number of times before, such as inadequate road access, the unforeseen frequency of fog is proving to be a headache. In addition to these concerns, during the recent test runs at the airport it was discovered that certain equipment and systems indispensable to proper operations and to passenger safety were not functioning correctly. The malfunctioning items include the baggage handling system, equipment for detecting explosives and the flight information display system.

The Ministry of Construction and Transpor-tation and the contractors are assuring everyone that the causes have been found and that all such problems will be solved before the opening March 29, but this is not something to be treated lightly. Such malfunctions endanger not only cargo but human lives. Foreign airlines began pointing out deficiencies in the baggage handling capabilities early on, and now that it is known that the system is not working properly, it appears that it may hinder the processing of arriving and departing passengers and aircraft, as well as risk legal liability for misrouted or lost possessions.

The need for thorough advance testing and practice runs cannot be emphasized enough. We have already seen what can happen: Hong Kong's Chep Lap Kok Airport, touted as perfectly prepared when it opened in June 1998, had serious problems with its baggage system for months.

When any such flaws are found, they must not be covered up or treated as a rush job. Irrespon-sible handling of problems could lead to tremendous losses and international humiliation. When defects were discovered in the baggage system at the new airport in Denver, Colorado, the airport's opening was put off for more than a year.

Other immediate requirements are more accommodations and related facilities. Far worse is the fact that if anything happened block traffic on the airport expressway, which is the only road in and out, the airport would essentially be paralyzed. But the biggest problem facing the airport is its weak financial structure and huge debt. The government has its work cut out, and rushing to start generating income is not the solution.
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