Jeju International Airport is the second largest airport in South Korea, just behind Incheon Airport, located in the city of Jeju. The airport opened in 1968. Jeju International Airport serves many mainland destinations in South Korea, as well as international destinations in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Malaysia. In 2019 it exceeded 30 million passengers a year. This airport is home to the world’s busiest air route, Seoul-Gimpo. Distinction that has been maintained almost all of 2022, in May of this year it achieved more than 1.2 million seats.
Jeju Island is the largest island in South Korea. At the end of September 2020, the total population of the island added up to more than 672 thousand people. A quick tour of Google Earth or Maps will show that the island is a truly beautiful place, according to wikipedia “formed by the eruption of an underwater volcano approximately 2 million years ago”. Clearly the Island is a great tourist destination. However, it is incredible that a country of 50 million inhabitants is home to the most popular route in the world. Second place according to data from OAG in May 2022 it was occupied by the Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh City route with 935 thousand seats per month. Sapporo New Chitose – Tokyo Haneda maintains the third position and Fukuoka – Tokyo Haneda has dropped two places to fourth position.
Another interesting parameter can be found in the American Union, in May, the JFK route from New York to Los Angeles was the busiest US air route with 284 thousand seats. By comparison, the route from Honolulu to Los Angeles does not rank among the most important in that country. Finally, it is essential to analyze the airports with the highest seat load per month, in May 2022 Atlanta, Dallas, London, Chicago and Tokyo occupy the first 5 positions. Missing from all these lists: Mexico City International Airport (AICM). At a regional level, among the routes with the highest traffic in number of seats, the Houston – Mexico route manages to sneak into fourth place with 105 thousand seats, Los Angeles – Mexico achieves seventh place and Madrid – Mexico with 89 thousand seats.
In short, a city with the regional importance of Mexico City should appear in a greater number of positions in the OAG study. The local market far exceeds that of South Korea. If the airport system of the metropolitan area, including AICM, Toluca and AIFA, fails to appear in number of seats, it is an indicator of a more serious problem. The domestic market is not enough to create a really relevant route in number of seats, it also indicates the low level of competition, fewer seats translates into higher cost per trip. A flight between Jeju and Gimpo can be purchased for one thousand seven hundred pesos for an hour and 10 minutes of flight, the Mexico – Monterrey flight is purchased for approximately the same amount, but with radically fewer seats.
AICM let alone AIFA manage to figure on the regional front, a worrying indicator that international tourism and business travelers do not see enough value in the destination. The problem is a struggle within the government and political forces of the country at the airport. Personally, it seems to me that the best option was the Texcoco airport or the NAICM. I am not an expert in airspace planning but I understand very well the opportunities and unserved markets. The problem is the unattractiveness of Mexico as a destination and the weakness of the internal market. We must promote tourism and investment in the country. Curiously, too much time has been wasted in the middle, not the end.
The airport of a country is the result of a long-term investment, Jeju has 54 years of operation. The most important airport in the country requires more than runways, positions and themed toilets. You need a national plan that attracts passengers, the airport is not the destination, it is simply a means for the country to be relevant. The AIFA is not the solution, nor is the AICM, but neither are they the problem, at least not entirely. The number of seats as a metric will help us determine if we have more offer, destinations and flight distance. In a country of 140 million inhabitants, a neighbor of the main economic power in the world, it is impossible to accept less than the first 5 places in the OAG ranking.