On the 16th of February 2015 ACI (Airport Council International), the organization that represents the world’s airports, announced their 2014 ASQ awards. Airport Service Quality prize is one of the most prestigious and comprehensive passenger service benchmarking tool. In this short article I will focus on “Best Improvement” category, which describes the airports that made the biggest progress in 2014. I would like to briefly describe the winners and try to figure out what’s so special about them.
Africa – Mauritius – Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (MRU)
Mauritius Island is located in the Indian Ocean around 900 kilometers to the east from Madagascar and 200 km in the same direction from Reunion, overseas department of France. The country is slightly larger then 2 000 square kilometers and has a population of 1,3 million people. The island is surrounded by 150 kilometers of beautiful sandy beaches protected by the world’s 3rd largest coral reef. This fact in combination with a perfect weather had a huge impact on country economy and caused tremendous growth of tourism in this area. The island is well known as a perfect luxury destination. The presence of some world leading airlines makes MRU a very interesting hub. It is always nice to watch big Emirates A380, which lands in Mauritius two times per day, so as Air France Boeing 777-300ER which arrives once a day from Paris. British Airways Boeing 777-200 from London is visiting the island 3 times per week and China Southern Airbus A330-300 from Shenzhen twice. There are many other carriers flying to MRU and contributing to its growth and expansion.
The airport is a home for Air Mauritus a national airline of this country. The carrier currently operates mixed Airbus and ATR fleet, including A330/340, A319 and ATR 72. It has additionally 4 Airbus A350-900 on order. The last figures provided by the airport are from 2012 and shows that almost 2,7 million passengers were handled in that year. I suppose this number is above 3 million for 2014 but I was not able to find necessary data.
Brand new passenger terminal gives a better picture about the progress MRU is making each year. It was finished in the second half of 2013 and designed after tropical palm type, specific for the region, called “Traveller’s Palm”. New building cost around 300 millions USD and is environmentally friendly and ecological. Additionally it is prepared for A380 planes, which enables Emirates to use these aircrafts on the route to from Dubai to Mauritius. The terminal has a capacity of 4 million passengers per year and is connected with the old one, which is currently being refurbished. Once finished it will give MRU enough throughput for many years of growth. MRU is not only the most improved airport in Africa but also the best one on this continent according to ACI. New investments gave Mauritius elegant airport with the highest level of service.
Asia-Pacific – Kolkata – Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU)
Kolkata CCU airport is the 5th largest airport in India and handled 10,7 million passengers in 2014. The city is located in the eastern part of the country not far form the boarder with Bangladesh and Bengal Bay. It has a population of 4,5 million and is most important town in West Bengal region being 9th most populous city in India. As the country doesn’t have any connection beyond Asia, in my opinion Middle Eastern carriers operate the most interesting routes from Kolkata. Emirates flies daily between Dubai and CCU with its Airbus A330-200 and both Qatar Airways and Etihad use A320 on that sector. The airport has changed completely in the last couple of years. In the beginning of 2013 the new integrated terminal was finished and started to serve both domestic and international passengers and airlines. It was designed by RMJM Global Architects and Design Firm, has a capacity of around 20-25 million passengers and exceeds significantly current region needs, being prepared for future growth. Especially that, India started develops faster and also this region may benefit from it. The new terminal has increased the comfort and service quality of the airport and is the main reason behind ACI award. At present airport has 2 parallel runways, one being ILS equipped. The airport is among others a hub for Air India (AI), IndiGo (6E) and SpiceJet (SG).
Europe – St. Petersburg – Pulkovo Airport (LED)
Pulkovo Airport is much larger then that in Mauritius. It has also significantly higher passenger traffic than CCU in Kolkata. In 2014 LED handled 14,3 million travelers. There are just two Russian airports, which are outclassing it in terms of yearly visitors. Bigger are only Moscow’s Domodedovo (DME) serving 33 million passengers and Sheremetyevo (SVO) with 32 million. Sankt Petersburg has one major airport, which currently is enough for 5 million city inhabitants.
2014 was the first year of operation for new Terminal 1, designed by Grimshaw Architects and SFMM. It is an amazing building being a true showcase of Russia ambitions and capabilities. Moving the traffic to the new terminal has automatically caused significant improvement in service quality. It will be able to host 12 million passengers per year and it is just the first phase of expansion. Ultimately LED is intended to have a capacity of 70 million. However current tense atmosphere between Russia and the West may postpone these plans or even stop it completely. New terminal should be equally interesting for arrival and departure passengers because of its unique construction. Landing up travelers unlike in the most airports in the world where arrivals hall is usually separated, will be able to see and feel the building design in full thanks to more open architecture. Before the new T1 was build the main terminal in LED was Pulkovo 1 which had a capacity of 6,5 million. Right now it is being refurbished and once completely finished it will increase airport throughput beyond 17 million. Pulkovo is a hub for Rossiya (FV) and Transaero Airlines (UN) as well as focus city for Nordavia (5N). From my perspective the most interesting destinations are Korean Air (KE) 3 times per week route to Seoul (ICN) with Boeing 777-200, Hainan Airlines (HU) also 3 times per week flight to Beijing (PEK) with Airbus A330, Emirates (EK) connection with Dubai (DXB) using Airbus A330-200 and Transaero (UN) flight to the second largest emirate in UAE with its Boeing 737-800.
This is the first part of my “Most improved airports in the world in 2014” article. The second part you may find here.