Why Does Seoul Have Two Airports? How do They Work and Operate?

Seoul is not only the capital city of South Korea, but also among the largest metropolis in Asia and a buzzing aviation hub. The city’s metropolitan area is home to over 26 million people. Roughly half of the entire country’s people live here. Therefore it needs a large and powerful infrastructure to support its air travel needs. That’s exactly what we’ll cover in this post. Why does Seoul have 2 airport, which are they and how do they work and operate. Let’s dive into it.

In this post:

  • Which Are Seoul’s Airports?
  • Why Does Seoul Have 2 Airports?
  • How Do They Work and Operate?

Which Are Seoul’s Airports?

Seoul currently operates a 2 airport system. The city’s 2 airports are:

  • Gimpo (GMP)
  • Incheon (ICN)

Gimpo is the oldest of the two. GMP is the city’s original international airport. It served as the sole airfield serving the South Korean capital from its construction in 1958, until the opening of Incheon International Airport in 2001. Thereafter the airport scaled back operations, with all intercontinental services moving to the newer airport, remaining operational for low cost carriers and a significant number of domestic flights.

Also as many older generation airports is located closer to the city which was also one of the factors that limited its further expansion. GMP is in the middle of a very densely populated area and is fairly close to downtown Seoul.

Incheon is the new modern airport which was constructed well outside of city by levelling 2 islands forming a large man made one. The airport is approximately 50 minutes out of Seoul and is the main hub for the country’s 2 largest full service carriers:

  • Asiana
  • Korean Air

Because many domestic services leave exclusively from Gimpo the airports are well interlinked forming a real airport system. You can read this other post to find out exactly how to get from Gimpo to Incheon and viceversa.

Why does Seoul have 2 airports and how do they operate?

Why Are There 2 Airports?

As I mentioned above, Gimpo was built well before Incheon international Airport. Seoul’s first airport dates back to 1958 and served as the city’s only air link to the outside world, remember South Korea is a defacto island due to its northern border being closed to North Korea.

As the country developed so did air travel. With Gimpo’s possibilities of expanding near to 0 due to its location, the need for a new higher capacity aviation hub became apparent in the late ’80s. That’s when planing and construction of Incheon started.

Why does Seoul have 2 airports?

How Do Incheon and Gimpo Work and Operate?

When Incheon opened in 2001, Gimpo wasn’t closed but cleverly transformed into a domestic and low cost hub. An airport that could cater to the needs of most Koreans travelling within the country or to short haul destinations.

All intercontinental flights arrive and depart solely at and from Incheon international airport. While most domestic flights are operated from Gimpo, including the world’s busiest route Gimpo to Jeju.

Therefore Incheon has remained as a superconductor hub and any passenger having to transfer to a domestic flight has to transfer to Gimpo.

About the author

Alex Achille

Ex Cabin Crew with Emirates, I've always loved travelling and other cultures. In this website I'll be sharing my experiences along with my reviews of the latest Korean Dramas and TV Series I've watched.

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