Aiming to become Asia’s premier air hub, Seoul’s Incheon Airport will soon get a fashion runway, a theme park and a hospital complex.
Jeff Kreiser goes places. The California-based minister has been whisked off to, too many countries, dragging his luggage through airports that make him feel as though he’s landed in purgatory. Many of them, he says, feel less like modern conduits to the sky and more like cattle yards. Then he stepped off a flight at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport.
A whole new world
Passengers slumbered on comfy loungers. Others enjoyed free public computers and Internet access, no-charge showers and luggage carts. Some watched a performance of traditional music at a cultural centre, or placed bets at a casino. Wandering the gates were Wal-Mart-style greeters assisting lost souls who didn’t speak Korean. There were numerous computer kiosks that, with a swipe of a plane ticket, displayed an easy-to-read map showing a passenger the path and transit time to the gate. “These are the things that make a traveller feel welcome in a strange land,” said Kreiser, 44.
One of its kind
Located on an island of reclaimed wetlands, Incheon is the scene of a new offensive: opened in 2001, the airport has set its sights on becoming Asia’s premier air hub, overtaking competitors in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. And by 2020, officials here want to redefine airport services to match those of an average city. On land the size of Manhattan, there are plans to construct a theme park, a yacht marina, designer studios, a fashion runway, a convention centre, and a hospital complex. “Airports should be more than a place for takeoff and landing,” spokesman Doh Gun-ho said. “Our idea was to build an airport city.”