[Letters] A salute to Incheon’s airport

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[Letters] A salute to Incheon’s airport

Economist Magazine reported that Skytrax, a company specializing in airline and airport research, has named Incheon, near Seoul, the best airport in the world, after 8.6 million passengers were asked for their views on 196 airports. Last year’s top two airports, Hong Kong and Singapore Changi, dropped to second and third, respectively, although Skytrax confirmed that the top three almost ended up in a dead heat. Incheon is both an engineering marvel and, in view of the economic crisis in late 1997, an example of national perseverance. Of course, not all of those airlines that suspended service during the crisis have showed up since then; in fact, airlines throughout the world are still consolidating.

The 5,508-hectare (13,610-acre) airport was reclaimed from two islands plus a great expanse of tidal basin. As an R&D Consultant at Incheon Science High School during the period from September 1997 to June 1998, I traveled back and forth on the ferry between the islands eight times per week. On the 45-minute ferry ride, I got to know several of the engineers employed on the $4.5 billion project.

The bridge that now connects the Olympic Expressway to the airport site took definite shape during my stay there. I was invited to visit the main airport construction site, and my friend the engineer (an Englishman) explained that the problem just then was that the pilings had to removed and reset because of seepage. A massive undertaking, it was accomplished quickly.

There is an eight-lane highway on the bridge, and now the trestles beneath the highway permit a “plane to train” link.

Two problems are the 60-kilometer (37-mile)distance to Seoul, and the dearth of flights to other Korean airports. But the March 29, 2001 opening allowed for any kinks to be taken out of the system before the 2002 World Cup, the all-important soccer tournament sponsored jointly by both Koreas plus Japan. I traveled to Japan the month after the last match and my voyage went smoothly. I have used the Incheon gateway several times since.

Koreans should be very proud of their international airport.

Richard Thompson, San Diego, California
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