The aviation industry is forecasting that the world fleet will double by 2030. By then, almost 50% of commercial airports will be operating at 95% or more of their capacity. As a result, it is expected that airport congestion worldwide will triple.
Are we pouring concrete yet?
Not quite. Despite the jobs and the wealth that an airport nearby brings, new airport developments are not easy to undertake. Airports profoundly modify the social, economic and environmental equilibrium of local communities. They require enormous amounts of land. They generate noise. They jam access roads. They damage the surrounding biodiversity. They require – most likely – the investment of massive amounts of taxpayer’s money. Some may even argue that they are unnecessary.
Thus, there are few new airport developments around the world.
Land requirements are pushing site developments far away from urban centers. In most extreme cases, airports are built upon land reclaimed from the sea, as in the cases of Chek Lap Kok, Osaka-Kansai and Nagoya. As a result, the costs of these airports have turned out to reach astronomical figures.
Also, it should be noted that there have been few new large-scale airport developments in the West. Denver, Montreal-Mirabel, Munich and Madrid-South are some of the few examples. Montreal-Mirabel was soon relegated to the role of a cargo airport; Madrid-South was closed, soon after opening, due to a lack of commercial activity. In the woods of Southern Brittany, the new Nantes Airport can’t even get off the ground, as its proposed site has become a battlefield of a war waged against it by committed activists.
The above examples illustrate how difficult airport developments are. As a result, most regions have opted for adjusting the capacity of their existing sites. But we shall make no mistake. Adding a new terminal or a new runway to an existing airport is not, by any means, any easier, or cheaper. The minefields that led to Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport and the ongoing battle for its third runway are good examples of what a good Public Inquiry can produce.
Global regions will only endure global competition by providing highly performing air transportation. This is not easy. Is your region keeping pace with growth?