Hong Kong International Airport (IATA: HKG, ICAO: VHHH) is the main airport in Hong Kong. It is colloquially known as Chek Lap Kok Airport (赤鱲角機場), because it was built on the island of Chek Lap Kok by land reclamation, and also to distinguish it from its predecessor, the closed Kai Tak Airport.
The airport opened for commercial operations in 1998, replacing Kai Tak, and is an important regional trans-shipment centre, passenger hub and gateway for destinations in Mainland China (with over 40 destinations) and the rest of Asia. Despite a relatively short history, Hong Kong International Airport has won seven Skytrax World Airport Awards for customer satisfaction in just ten years. However, HKIA ranked second and third in 2009 and 2010 respectively for the Skytrax World Airport Awards, although it still remains as the best airport taking into account passenger numbers annually.
HKIA also operates one of the world's largest passenger terminal buildings (the world's largest when opened in 1998) and operates twenty-four hours a day. The airport is operated by the Airport Authority Hong Kong and is the primary hub for Cathay Pacific Airways, Dragonair, Hong Kong Express Airways, Hong Kong Airlines and Air Hong Kong (cargo). It is a focus city for Vietnam Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, China Airlines and Air New Zealand to a lesser extent Qantas and Virgin Atlantic, both of which use Hong Kong as a stopover point for flights on the Kangaroo Route between Australasia and Europe. Both United Airlines and Air India use Hong Kong as a stopover point for flights respectively from the United States to Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City as well as from India to Osaka and Seoul. In the near future, Garuda Indonesia is considering making Hong Kong their transit hub for flights to Europe while Swiss International Air Lines considers Hong Kong to be a major transfer hub for its network. This shows that Hong Kong International Airport is a key Asian airport for global airline operations.
Flights are operated by roughly 90 airlines to over 150 cities across the globe, and in 2009 it was the 13th busiest airport worldwide in terms of passenger throughput, registering 45,560,888. HKIA is also an important contributor to the Hong Kong economy, with 60,000 people employed at the airport.
In 2009, it was the second busiest airport in the world in terms of cargo traffic, handling 3,384,765 tons of cargo. During the first 10 months of 2010, HKIA is the busiest airport by cargo traffic in the world, ahead of Memphis Airport in USA.
Chek Lap Kok Airport was designed as a replacement for the former Hong Kong International Airport (commonly known as Kai Tak Airport) originally built in 1925. Located in the densely built-up Kowloon City District with a single runway extending into Kowloon Bay, Kai Tak had only limited room for expansion to cope with steadily increasing air traffic. By the 1990s, Kai Tak had become one of the world's busiest airports – it far exceeded its annual passenger and cargo design capacities, and one out of every three flights met delays, largely due to lack of space for aircraft, gates, and a second runway. In addition, noise mitigation measures restricted nighttime flights, as severe noise pollution (exceeding 105 dB(A) in Kowloon City) was estimated to adversely affect at least 340,000 people.
A 1974 planning study by the Hong Kong Civil Aviation and Public Works department identified the small island of Chek Lap Kok, off Lantau Island, as a possible airport replacement site. Away from the congested city centre, flight paths would be routed over the South China Sea rather than populous urban areas, enabling efficient round-the-clock operation of multiple runways. Construction of the new airport, however, did not begin until 1991. The construction period was very rushed; specialists considered only a 10-20 year period was sufficient for this massive project. Another cause for this rush was due to the uncertain future of the airport construction after
the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China. It was originally believed that Beijing preferred to keep everything basically intact and minimise financial commitments for big projects, therefore stopping all construction despite the need for the new airport. At last, the airport did not finish in time for the Handover. However, China gave an additional year's grace period to finish the project. It was finished just in time.
Hong Kong International Airport was built on a large artificial island, formed by levelling Chek Lap Kok and Lam Chau islands (3.02 km² and 0.08 km² respectively), and reclaiming 9.38 km² of the adjacent seabed. The 12.48 km² airport site added nearly 1% to Hong Kong's total surface area, connecting to the north side of Lantau Island near Tung Chung new town.
Construction of the new airport was only part of the Airport Core Programme, which also involved construction of new road and rail links to the airport, with associated bridges and tunnels, and major land reclamation projects on both Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon. The project is the most expensive airport project ever, according to Guinness World Records. Construction of the new airport was voted as one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century at the ConExpo conference in 1999.
With one of the world's largest airport terminals, the ability to withstand an intense typhoon was a major concern. The sides of the terminals, predominantly glass, were designed to break during high speed winds, relieving pressure and allowing the terminal to remain standing.
Opened on 6 July 1998, a week later than the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport, it took six years and US$20 billion to build. On that day at 6:25 am, Cathay Pacific flight 889 was the first commercial flight to land at the airport, pipping the original CX292 from Rome which was the scheduled first arrival. The architects were Foster and Partners. However, on the first day of opening, the airport had already started to experience some technical difficulties. The flight information display system (FIDS) had suddenly shut down which caused long delays. Shortly afterwards, the cargo communication link with Kai Tak, where all the data was stored, went down. In the same period of time, someone had accidentally deleted a critical database for cargo services. This meant that cargo had to be manually stored. At one point, the airport had to turn away freight headed for and exported from Hong Kong (except food and medical supplies) while it sorted out the mess. HKIA simply could not keep up without an automated computer assisting. For three to five months after its opening, it suffered various severe organisational, mechanical and technical problems that almost crippled the airport. Computer glitches were to blame for the crisis. Lau Kang-way, a Hong Kong politician, was quoted saying "This was meant to be a first-class project, but it has turned into a ninth-class airport and a disgrace. Our airport has become the laughing stock of the world. At one time, the government reopened the cargo terminal at Kai Tak Airport to handle freight traffic because of a breakdown at the new cargo terminal, named Super Terminal One (ST1). However, after six months the airport started to operate normally.
Officially opened in June 2007, the second airport terminal, called T2, (check-in facility only) is linked with the MTR Airport Express on a new platform. The terminal also features a new shopping mall, SkyPlaza, providing a large variety of shops and restaurants, together with a few entertainment facilities. T2 also houses a 36-bay coach station for buses to and from mainland China and 56 airline check-in counters, as well as customs and immigration facilities.
Besides T2, the SkyCity Nine Eagles Golf Course has been opened in 2007 whereas the second airport hotel, the Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott Hotel; and a permanent cross-boundary ferry terminal, the SkyPier, began operations in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Development around T2 also includes the AsiaWorld-Expo which has started operation in late 2005. A second passenger concourse, the North Satellite Concourse (NSC), opened in 2010.
A study for the HKIA Master Plan 2030 is underway to examine whether and how infrastructures at HKIA - including airport access, terminal and apron facilities and a new runway - should be developed to support the economic growth of Hong Kong and the region.
In June 2010, the Airport Authority unveiled plans to develop in stages the vast midfield site of the airport island. Stage 1 will involve the construction of a new 20 gate passenger concourse to be built in 2 phases (completion 2015 and 2020) with 11 gates in phase 1 growing to 20 gates in phase 2. Configuration of the new concourse is similar to those at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, London Heathrow Terminal 5 and Seoul Incheon airport. After stage 1 of midfield development is completed in 2020, there will be sufficient lands remaining for further new concourses to be built as and when demand for them materialises
The airport has a total of 70 boarding gates, with 63 jet bridge gates and seven virtual gates which are used as assembly points for passengers, who are then ferried to the aircraft by apron buses. Of the 63 jet bridges, five are capable of handling the Airbus A380. Singapore Airlines and Emirates currently deploy A380s to Hong Kong and use those gates.
Terminal 1 of the HKIA is currently the third largest airport passenger terminal building in the world (570,000 m²), after Dubai International Airport's Terminal 3 (1,500,000 m²) and Beijing Capital International Airport's Terminal 3 (986,000 m²).
At its opening, Terminal 1 was the largest airport passenger terminal building, with a total gross floor area of 550,000 m². It briefly conceded the status to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport (563,000 m²) when the latter opened on 15 September 2006, but reclaimed the title when the East Hall was expanded, bringing the total area to its current size (the East Hall expansion included a 39,000 m² expansion to SkyMart, a shopping mall). Terminal 1's title as the world's largest was surrendered to Beijing's airport's Terminal 3 on 29 February 2008.
Terminal 2 (140,000 m²), together with the Skyplaza, opened on 28 February 2007 along with the opening of the Airport Station's Platform 3. It is only a check-in and processing facility for departing passengers with no gates or arrival facilities (passengers are transported underground to gates at Terminal 1). So far a majority of low-cost carriers and some full-service carriers have relocated their check-in operations to T2. The SkyPlaza is situated within Terminal 2. Architecture firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill designed Terminal 2 and the SkyPlaza
North Satellite Concourse
In 2007, HKIA began the construction of a two-storey North Satellite Concourse (NSC) which opened in December 2009. This concourse was designed for narrow-body aircraft and is equipped with 10 jet bridges. The concourse has a floor area of 200,000 m² and will be able to serve more than five million passengers annually. There is a shuttle bus service between the NSC and Terminal 1 every four minutes. The concourse was commissioned at the end of 2009
The airport is operated by the Airport Authority Hong Kong, a statutory body wholly owned by the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The Civil Aviation Department (CAD) is responsible for the provision of air traffic control services, certification of Hong Kong registered aircraft, monitoring of airlines on their compliance with bilateral Air Services Agreements and the regulation of general civil aviation activities.
The airport has two parallel runways, both of which are 3800 metres in length and 60 metres wide, enabling them to cater to the next generation of aircraft. The south runway has been given a Category II Precision Approach, while the north runway has the higher Category IIIA rating, which allows pilots to land in only 200 metre visibility. The two runways have an ultimate capacity of over 60 aircraft movements an hour. Normally, the north runway (07L/25R) is for landing passenger planes. The south runway (07R/25L) is for passenger planes taking off and cargo planes taking off and landing.
There are 49 frontal stands at the main passenger concourse, 28 remote stands and 25 cargo stands. Five parking bays at the Northwest Concourse are already capable of accommodating the arrivals of the next generation of aircraft. A satellite concourse with 10 frontal stands for narrow body aircraft has been commissioned to the north of the main concourse at the end of 2009, bringing the total number of frontal stands at the airport to 59.
The airport was the third busiest for passenger traffic in Asia in 2008, and the world's second busiest airport for cargo traffic in 2008. In terms of international traffic, the airport is the third busiest for passenger traffic and the busiest for cargo since its operation in 1998. There are 85 international airlines providing about 800 scheduled passenger and all-cargo flights each day between Hong Kong and some 150 destinations worldwide. About 76 percent of these flights are operated with wide-bodied jets. There are also an average of approximately 31 non-scheduled passenger and cargo flights each week.
The operation of scheduled air services to and from Hong Kong is facilitated by air services agreements between Hong Kong and other countries. Since the opening of HKIA, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has implemented a policy of progressive liberalisation of air services with the intention of promoting consumer choice and competition. Many low-cost airlines have started various regional routes to compete head-on with full-service carriers on trunk routes.
The airport's long term expansion opportunities are subject to variables. A proposal to build a third runway has been under feasibility study and consultation but would be very expensive as it would involve additional reclamation from deep waters, and the building cost of the third runway may be as high as the building cost of the entire airport. On the other hand, there exists only one airway between Hong Kong and mainland China, and this single route is often and easily backed up causing delays on both sides. In addition, China requires that aircraft flying the single air route between Hong Kong and the mainland must be at an altitude of at least 15,000 feet. Talks are underway to persuade the Chinese military to relax its airspace restriction in view of worsening air traffic congestion at the airport. Other than that, Hong Kong Airport Authority is cooperating with other airports in the area to relieve air traffic and in the future, Shenzhen may act as a regional airport while Hong Kong receives all the international flights.
Recreational flying in Hong Kong is catered for by the Hong Kong Aviation Club, which undertakes flying training for private pilots and provides facilities for private owners.
The Government Flying Service provides short and long range search and rescue services, police support, medical evacuation and general purpose flights for the Government.
The airport is one of the most accessible in operation today. Despite its size, the passenger terminal is designed for maximum convenience. A simple layout and effective signage, moving walkways and the automated people mover allow quick and easy movement throughout the building. The airport also features the HKIA Automated People Mover, a driverless people mover system consisting of 3 stations to provide fast transportation between the check-in area and the gates. These trains travel at 62 km/h and there is no charge for their use.
Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre
The Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre (BAC) is located within the confines of the airport and has its own terminal and facilities separate from the public terminal. It provides a full range of services for executive aircraft and passengers, including passenger lounge, private rooms and showers, business centre facilities, ground handling, baggage handling, fuelling, security, customs and flight planning. Designated spaces and hangarage are also provided at the BAC for private aircraft.
Intermodal transportation hub
In order to sustain the growth of passengers, the Airport Authority formulated a "push and pull through" strategy to expand its connections to new sources of passengers and cargo. This means adapting the network to the rapidly growing markets in China and in particular to the Pearl River Delta region (PRD). In 2003, two major events improved connections to the PRD. One was the opening of a new Airport-Mainland Coach Station. The coach station features a 230 m² waiting lounge and sheltered bays for ten coaches. The dedicated coach terminal provides a comfortable environment for passengers travelling between HKIA and different cities in the PRD. A huge number of buses are operating per day to transport passengers between HKIA and major cities in the Mainland.
The Coach Station was relocated to Terminal 2 in 2007. The 36 bays at the new Coach Station allow cross-border coaches to make 320 trips a day carrying passengers between the airport and 90 cities and towns in the PRD. Local tour and hotel coaches also operate from T2.
HKIA's network to China is also expanded by the opening of SkyPier in late September 2003, offering millions in the PRD direct access to the airport. Passengers coming to SkyPier by high-speed ferries can board buses for onward flights while arriving air passengers can board ferries at the pier for their journeys back to the PRD. Passengers travelling both directions can bypass custom and immigration formalities, which reduces transit time. Four ports – Shekou, Shenzhen, Macau and Humen (Dongguan) – were initially served. As of August 2007, SkyPier serves Shenzhen's Shekou and Fuyong, Dongguan's Humen, Macau, Zhongshan and Zhuhai. Moreover, passengers travelling from Shekou and Macau piers can even complete airline check-in procedures with participating airlines before boarding the ferries and go straight to the boarding gate for the connecting flight at HKIA. The provision of cross boundary coach and ferry services has transformed HKIA into an inter-modal transportation hub combining air, sea and land transport.
Baggage and cargo facilities
Ramp handling services are provided by Hong Kong Airport Services Limited (HAS), Jardine Air Terminal Services Limited and SATS HK Limited. Their services include the handling of mail and passenger baggage, transportation of cargo, aerobridge operations and the operation of passenger stairways. The airport has an advanced baggage handling system (BHS), the main section of which is located in the basement level of the passenger terminal, and a separate remote transfer facility at the western end of the main concourse for handling of tight connection transfer bags.
HKIA currently handles well over three million tonnes of cargo annually. Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited operates one of the two air cargo terminals at the airport. Its headquarters, the 328,000 m² SuperTerminal 1, is the world's second largest stand-alone air cargo handling facility, after the opening of the West Cargo Handling Area of the Shanghai Pudong International Airport in 26 Mar 2008. The designed capacity is 2.6 million tonnes of freight a year. The second air cargo terminal is operated by Asia Airfreight Terminal Company Limited, and currently has a capacity of 1.5 million tonnes a year. It is envisaged that HKIA's total air cargo capacity per annum will reach nine million tonnes ultimately.
Aircraft maintenance services
Both line and base maintenance services are undertaken by Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company (HAECO), while China Aircraft Services Limited (CASL) and Pan Asia Pacific Aviation Services Limited carry out line maintenance. Line maintenance services include routine servicing of aircraft performed during normal turnaround periods and regularly scheduled layover periods. Base maintenance covers all airframe maintenance services and, for this, HAECO has a three-bay hangar, which can accommodate up to three Boeing B747-400 aircraft and two Airbus A320 aircraft, and an adjoining support workshop. HAECO also has the world's largest mobile hangar, weighing over 400 tons. It can be used to enclose half of a wide-body airplane, so that the whole facility can fully enclose four 747s when the mobile hangar is used. A new two-bay hangar that locates next to the current one will be in operation by the end of 2006.
On 29 May 2009, CASL opened its first aircraft maintenance hangar in the maintenance area of the airport. The new hangar occupies an area of about 10,000 square metres to accommodate one wide-body and one narrow-body aircraft at the same time, the hangar also has about 10,000 square metre area in its annexe building.
Airport based ground services
The Air Traffic Control Complex (ATCX), located at the centre of the airfield, is the nerve centre of the entire air traffic control system. Some 370 air traffic controllers and supporting staff work around the clock to provide air traffic control services for the safe and efficient flow of aircraft movements within the Hong Kong Flight Information Region (FIR). At the Air Traffic Control Tower, controllers provide 24-hour aerodrome control services to aircraft operating at the airport. A Backup Air Traffic Control Centre/Tower constructed to the north of the ATCX is available for operational use in the event normal services provided in the ATCX are disrupted by unforeseen circumstances. Apart from serving as an operational backup, the facilities are also used for air traffic control training.
The Airport Meteorological Office (AMO) of the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) provides weather services for the aviation community The AMO makes routine and special weather observations and provides fixed-time aerodrome forecasts and landing forecasts for the HKIA. It issues aerodrome warnings on adverse weather for protection of aerodrome facilities and aircraft on the ground. It also issues significant weather information on thunderstorms, tropical cyclones, turbulence, icing and other hazardous weather which may affect aviation safety in the area within which Hong Kong is responsible for the provision of air traffic services. To enhance the safety of aircraft landing and taking off from HKIA, the AMO issues alerts of low-level windshear and turbulence.
Rescue and fire fighting services within the airport are covered by the Airport Fire Contingent of the Hong Kong Fire Services Department. The contingent has a strength of 282 uniformed members, operating two fire stations and two rescue berths for 24-hour emergency calls. It is equipped with 14 fire appliances which can respond to incidents within two minutes in optimum conditions of visibility and surface conditions, satisfying the relevant recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Two high capacity rescue boats, supported by eight speed boats, form the core of sea rescue operations.
The Airport was built with ground-transportation considerations in mind connected by the North Lantau Highway on Lantau Island, providing a fast and scenic link to inner Hong Kong. Getting to and from Hong Kong International Airport is therefore easy, convenient and relatively inexpensive.
Terminal-to-terminal travel is also quick and simple. Operated by the Airport Authority and maintained by MTR Corporation, there is an automated people mover connecting the East Hall to the West Hall and Terminal 2. Extension to SkyPier was also completed and opened to public in late 2009.
Airport Express - Airport Station
Main article: Buses in Hong Kong
Citybus, New Lantao Bus, Long Win Bus and Discovery Bay Bus all together operate 25 bus routes to the airport from various parts of Hong Kong, available at the Airport Ground Transportation Centre and Cheong Tat Road. The bus companies also offer 10 overnight "N" services since the airport is open 24-hours a day.
Passengers can also take the S1 Citybus to the Tung Chung MTR Station. From there they can board the MTR Tung Chung line which follows the same route as the MTR Airport Express to Central.
Coach services are available to major cities and towns in Guangdong Province, such as Dongguan, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
Direct ferry services are available from the airport to various destinations throughout the Pearl River Delta. Passengers using these services are treated as transit passengers and are not considered to have entered Hong Kong for immigration purposes. For this reason, access to the ferry terminal is before immigration in the airport for arriving passengers. Check-in services are available at these piers. Four ports – Shekou, Shenzhen, Macau and Humen (Dongguan) – were initially served, extending to Guangzhou and Zhongshan at the end of 2003. The Zhuhai service began on 10 July 2007 while a Nansha service started on 14 July 2009.
Main article: Rail transport in Hong Kong
The airport can be reached by the Airport Express, a dedicated rail link provided by the Mass Transit Railway. It takes 24 minutes to reach the airport from Hong Kong station, thus awarding it the fastest mode of transport to get to the airport. It offers local MTR line connections along the line. In addition, both Hong Kong and Kowloon stations provide complimentary and exclusive in-town check-in services for major airlines.
Passengers may also consider take the one-minute journey to AsiaWorld-Expo, which is also located in Chek Lap Kok. This segment of the Airport Express started operations on 20 December 2005 to facilitate the opening of the expo.
In the latest policy address by Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, the chief executive of the Special Administrative Region, the government is also studying the feasibility of building a railway connecting between Hong Kong International Airport and Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport to provide further convenience to business and leisure travellers
Main article: Taxicabs of Hong Kong
The airport is served by all three different types of taxi, distinguished by their colour:
Urban taxis connect the Airport with Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and parts of the new towns of Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin and Tseung Kwan O (urban taxis can go anywhere in Hong Kong except southern Lantau Island).
New Territories taxis connect the airport with the New Territories, except those parts of the Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin and Tseung Kwan O served by urban taxis.
Lantau taxis connect the airport with the rest of Lantau Island.
There are 3 hotels located in the nearby area, which are: Hong Kong Skycity Marriott Hotel (connect to AsiaWorld Expo), Novotel Hong Kong Citygate (Tung Chung) and Regal Airport Hotel.
Accidents and incidents
On 22 August 1999, China Airlines Flight 642 (an MD-11 operated by subsidiary Mandarin Airlines), which was landing in Typhoon Sam at Hong Kong International Airport en route from Bangkok International Airport (now Bangkok Don Mueang International Airport) to Hong Kong, rolled over and caught fire, coming to rest upside down beside the runway. Three people onboard were killed.
On 31 July 2000 a man, armed with a pistol, forced his way through a security checkpoint and held a woman hostage on a Cathay Pacific aircraft. The man surrendered after two and a half hours
Hong Kong International Airport was featured in the episode "Hong Kong Airport" from Richard Hammond's Engineering Connections. In the episode, Hammond mostly talks about how the airport is able to withstand typhoons, and how it was built.
The airport was also featured in Discovery Channel's Extreme Engineering. It shows how the airport, along with other links, were built, and some brief history of the airport.
Hong Kong International Airport also featured in a documentary broadcasted on TVB in Hong Kong called City of the Sky which focused on the operations of the airport itself.
The airport was also featured in the 2001 Brett Ratner film Rush Hour 2, where Chief Inspector Lee Jackie Chan and Detective James Carter Chris Tucker fly from Hong Kong to Los Angeles.
AETRA Best Airport Worldwide (2005)
Air Cargo News Cargo Airport of the Year (2002–2003)
Air Cargo World Air Cargo Excellence (2007)
Air Transport Research Society Asia Pacific Airport Efficiency Excellence Award (2007)
Airports Council International World's Best Airport (2007–2008)
Asiaweek Asia's Best Airport (2000)
British Constructional Steelwork Association, the Steel Construction Institute and British Steel Structural Steel Design Award (1999)
Business Traveller Best Airport in China (2006–2007)
Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation CAPA International Airport of the Year (2007)
Conde Nast Traveller World's Best Airport (2007)
Construction Industry Manufacturers Association CONEXPO-CON/AGG '99 Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century - Airport Core Programme (1999)
Federation of Asia Pacific Aircargo Associations Most Friendly Airport for Cargo (2005)
Hong Kong Institute of Architects Silver Medal for Architecture (1999)
Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants Diamond - Best Corporate Governance Disclosure Awards (2004)
International Air Transport Association (IATA) Eagle Award (2002)
Raven Fox Award for Travel-Retail Excellence in Asia / Pacific (1999–2000)
Skytrax World's Best Airport (2001–2005, 2007–2008)
SmartTravelAsia.com Best Airport Worldwide (2006–2007)
TravelWeekly Best International Airport (2007)
TravelWeeklyChina Best Airport Facilities (2006)
TTG Best Airport (2002, 2004–2008; Survey was not held in 2003 owing to SARS)
WTA World Travel Awards Asia/ Pacific's Leading Airport (2000)
YOSEPH BUITRAGO C.I. 18257871 CRF