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Airlines in Asia hit infrastructure “brick wall”

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Terminals, runways, airspace management can’t keep up

Asia’s booming airline industry has led to high growth expectations among airlines, but there is a comparative failure of infrastructure development to keep pace, the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines says.

Speaking to journalists at the preopening of the 57th Assembly of Presidents in Hong Kong last week, Andrew Herdman, the association’s director general, said that passenger traffic is rising at 5% per year globally with Asia-Pacific, South America and the Middle East seeing the fastest growth.

Passenger growth is strongest in regional short-haul markets served by narrow-body aircraft for two- to three-hour flights, he said.

Many Asian airlines have placed massive aircraft orders in anticipation of future growth and for enhancing fuel efficiency. “People used to talk about buying [planes] in the dozens, but now you talk about buying 50, 100 at a time. It’s a good time to be an aircraft salesman.”

But infrastructure development, from terminals to runways to airspace management, struggles to keep up – an issue especially critical for double-digit growth markets such as China, Indonesia and the Philippines.

“The danger with [insufficient] infrastructure is that it doesn’t just hold you back, it’s a brick wall. If you don’t have the infrastructure, no matter how many aircraft you buy there comes to a point where you’re up against the wall in terms of bottlenecks of busy airspace or airport capacity,” Herdman said.

TTG Asia

[photo courtesy Finnair]

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