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Economy

Japan's Kansai airport plans $900m capacity and safety upgrade

Operator aims to accommodate 10m more travelers a year at international hub

Japan's Kansai International Airport, near Osaka, aims to finish its first large-scale renovation in its 25-year history by 2025. (Photo by Kosaku Mimura)
Kansai International Airport, near Osaka, aims to finish the first large-scale renovation in its 25-year history by 2025. (Photo by Kosaku Mimura)

OSAKA -- Japan's Kansai International Airport looks to invest about 100 billion yen ($911 million) through 2025 to upgrade the larger terminal, seeking to boost capacity at the country's No. 2 hub for foreign flights.

Kansai Airports, the facility's operator, also plans to bolster disaster protection measures after Typhoon Jebi caused severe flooding at Terminal 1 and one of the airport's two runways in September. The upgrades represent the first large-scale overhaul of the Osaka-area airport in its 25-year history.

The company aims to lift the airport's annual traveler capacity by around 10 million before Osaka hosts the 2025 World Expo. Kansai International welcomes Japan's second-largest count of foreign visitors after the Tokyo area's Narita Airport. It logged a record 28.94 million travelers in 2018 despite being temporarily taken out of commission by the typhoon.

When Terminal 1 opened in 1994, it could handle 25 million international and domestic travelers per year. The later addition of Terminal 2 was intended to lift capacity by 8 million people. The terminals appear to have grown capable of receiving more travelers as procedures like luggage checks become more efficient.

About 60 airlines use Terminal 1, which handles around 80% of all flights to and from the hub. Kansai International is built on a man-made island and has little room to expand, so the upgrades will consist of measures such as rearranging layouts and deploying cutting-edge technology to speed up procedures.

"A competition has arisen worldwide to build more efficient terminals using information technology and other tech, and we'd like to bring those ideas to Kansai International," said Yoshiyuki Yamaya, CEO of Kansai Airports. "We'll strive to finish the renovations before Osaka's 2025 world's fair."

The airport also will increase square footage for duty-free shops, in response to the growing numbers of visitors to Japan, he said.

In December, Kansai Airports split responsibility for devising disaster countermeasures with New Kansai International Airport Co., the ultimate owner of structures including the runways. Kansai Airports will put about 30 billion yen of its planned investments toward such improvements.

Efforts will include raising seawalls and installing concrete blocks to dissipate waves. Electrical equipment under Terminal 1 will be moved above ground and outfitted to keep out water -- a move prompted by the electrical outages that occurred when flooding from the typhoon reached underground equipment.

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