Kansai International Airport is located on a man-made island in Osaka Bay, serving the Osaka area. It was constructed at a cost of over $14 billion US, beginning in 1986. It opened for flights in 1996, but construction continues. At approximately 4 X 1 km, the island is constructed in around 18m of water, entirely from landfill. These stats make it the largest man-made island (and the largest landfill) in the world. The main terminal building, at approx. 1.6 km in length, is the world's longest.

Construction is continuing on a second runway; however, problems with the original construction make the completion date and cost uncertain. Actually, Kansai Airport is settling into the seafloor at just under one foot per year, more than six times as fast as had been predicted. There have already been problems with high waves and rain overtaxing the drainage capability of the island due to the lower falloff. The jacks were primarily designed to keep the structures level, not to compensate for rapid sinking of the landfill. What will be done about this remains to be seen.

Kansai's problems are compounded by lower-than-expected utilization (and therefore revenues) since its opening. In 2000, according to CNN, Kansai International handled around 123,000 flights. Its maximum rate is around 160,000. While that alone wouldn't be a low enough level to cause trouble, the cost of additional repairs and construction (including an unplanned below-surface seawall to prevent seepage) have added costs to the project. The seawall apparently added approximately 8% to 10% to the total, and was debt-financed. Finally, the air travel market in the Osaka region is primarily an economy travel one. The lack of business and first-class passengers using the hub is further cutting into revenue.

Some critics say that the depth of the water (18-20m) and resultant engineering demands are to blame. Other projects on reclaimed land, including an airport near Inchon, Korea, and the Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong, are doing better. They were both built in shallower (1-5m) waters.


Kansai Kokusai Kûkô, code KIX, is the primary international airport for the Kansai (Kinki) region of Japan, including the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, and Wakayama, and eastern Shikoku: it serves a population of around 30 million. It has taken over all of the international traffic, and a large portion of the domestic traffic, that once used Osaka International Airport.


Why is Kansai on an island? Osaka Airport is right in the middle of the city, straddling the suburban cities of Itami and Toyonaka. Because of its location, noise pollution is a major issue, and flights cannot legally operate early in the morning or late at night. KIX was placed on an island to isolate its incoming and outcoming flights from residential areas. Placing it in the middle of the bay also circumvented the sorts of political problems that occurred during the land confiscations for New Tokyo International Airport.

Shortly after The Custodian's writeup entered the nodegel, KIX's geology crew issued a report stating that the airport's rate of sinkage was rapidly decreasing. Today, the ground below the terminal and runways is quite stable, and engineers no longer have to jack up the buildings' foundations.

The airport's construction has been split into three phases. Phase I, where KIX currently stands, consists of a single terminal building and a 3,500m runway. The ongoing Phase II, slated for completion in 2007, will add a second terminal and a parallel 4,000m runway to KIX, increasing its capacity from 160,000 annual movements to 230,000 annual movements. Phase III, if constructed, would add a third runway across the other two to accommodate up to 300,000 takeoffs and landings each year.


KIX is connected to the mainland (at Rinku Town) by a double-decker cantilever bridge that accommodates cars on top and trains below. The Nankai Railway operates "rapi:t" express service from the airport to Namba station, and local service to Wakayama. JR offers a limited express train, the Haruka, that stops at Tennoji, Shin-Osaka, and Kyoto Station, as well as a rapid service train to Osaka Station and Kyobashi. Passengers bound for Kobe or Nara will find the limousine bus service to be quicker than the train. There is also hydrofoil service to Kobe and Tokushima.


As you might expect, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways are the largest tenants at KIX. Other airlines include Air Canada, Air China, Air France, Air-India, Air New Zealand, Alitalia, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Continental Airlines, Egyptair, Emirates, EVA Air, Finnair, Garuda Indonesia, Japan Air System, KLM, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Northwest Airlines, Philippine Air, Royal Nepal Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Thai International, United Airlines, Uzbekistan Airways, and Vietnam Airlines. Dragonair, FedEx, SAS, and UPS fly cargo to and from the airport.

82 cities have scheduled flights to KIX, including 18 cities within Japan.


If you're looking for a bite to eat, leave the terminal and cross through the station to the Aeroplaza. There's lots of good eateries there, not to mention an excellent array of souvenir sellers, and an entire mini-Takashimaya to browse through.

It's not too easy to go plane-spotting from the public portion of the terminal (despite the fact that it's made almost entirely out of glass), but you can catch some good views at either end of the ticketing wing.

If you're travelling to Tokyo International Airport, you can get your Tokyo Monorail or Keikyu Railway tickets in advance from a machine on the second floor of the Kansai terminal.

Until April 2002, you had to keep ¥2,650 on you when you left, in order to pay a special passenger service facilities charge. Now, that fee is included in your ticket, so you don't have to worry about it, besides the sticker shock you'll invariably experience when buying your ticket to Osaka.


The terminal's roof, designed by Renzo Piano, is actually shaped like an airfoil. The air conditioning ducts blow air straight up on one end of the building, and then it follows the camber of the ceiling to fall back down on the other end. If you happen to look up while waiting at ticketing, you'll notice that this air flow is used to drive mobiles suspended from the ceiling.

KIX accommodated 115,000 aircraft, 17.1 million passengers, and 785,000 tons of freight in its previous year of operations.

The American Society of Civil Engineers named KIX the #2 civil engineering project of the 20th century, second only to the Panama Canal.

The average water depth under the first phase was 18 meters: for the second phase, it is 19.5 meters. The second phase is currently estimated to cost ¥1.56 trillion, ¥1.1 trillion of which will be used solely for reclaiming the 545 hectares of land necessary. By its completion, Phase 2 will have generated 195,000 jobs in the Kansai region and elsewhere.

For More Information

http://www.kansai-airport.or.jp/ for airport info
http://www.kiac.co.jp/ for traffic statistics
http://www.kald.co.jp/ for construction info

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