SOUTH KOREA. At 7.55 a.m. this morning a Korean Air flight took off for Manila, formally marking the beginning of departures from one of the world’s most anticipated airport terminals, writes Ahn Sang Joon.

T2’s opening represents a watershed moment in the multi-phase US$5 billion expansion. T2 is serving four airlines, the country’s flagship carrier Korean Air, plus KLM, Air France, and Delta Airlines. Incheon’s other 86 airlines stay at T1.

Around 18 million passengers this year, or 30% of total traffic, will move to T2 from today. Incheon International Airport will continue the terminal expansion until 2023, when annual passenger capacity will reach 100 million.

Not surprisingly, T2 delivers an extensive and often innovative shopping and dining experience. After all, Incheon Airport posted the highest duty free sales of any airport in the world last year, just heading off Dubai International to record revenues of US$2.1 billion (+4% year-on-year), on traffic growth of +7.4% to 62 million. And while duty free sales did not keep pace with traffic, the result was impressive given the severe impact on Chinese tourism caused by the THAAD-related political dispute with China.

The new terminal was designed to provide extended dwell time in the shopping space with an environmentally friendly, spacious and automated shopping experience.

High ceilings, vast spaces and a combination of bright and natural light create a pleasant passenger ambience (All photos by (Photos: Ahn Sang Joon unless otherwise credited)

The country’s leading carrier Korean Air is the dominant player at the new terminal

Natural light, high ceilings and extensive art displays 

T2 has total floor space of 397,000sq m. It features three times T1’s indoor garden space and a +20% increase in ceiling heights. Natural lighting abounds. Reflecting the airport’s status as the national gateway, T2 features 54 art displays

Six duty free retailers are competing for the travellers’ spend – Lotte Duty Free, The Shilla Duty Free and Shinsegae Duty Free representing the industry powerhouses, and three small & medium enterprises: SM; Entas Duty Free and CItyPlus. Collectively they are managing some 10,000sq m of shopping space, around 60% of that in T1.

The terminal also features 62 self-check-in kiosks, 34 self-bag-drop stations and 52 automatic border control units. These are intended to not only enhance the passenger facilitation speed but also to extend commercial dwell time. T2 has two main immigration entries to the boarding area, thus streamlining the passenger flow to the central duty free zone.

The glamorous central zone accommodates 20 high-end boutique brands featuring a stunning array of flagship concepts. Names such as Gucci, Chanel, Hermès and Rolex represent a roll-call of luxury fame. Gucci’s landmark marble and lighting-covered façade is astounding.

Fantastic façade: Gucci delivers the wow factor in extraordinary fashion (Photo: Ahn Sang Joon)

Back where it belongs: Chanel fashion and luxury returns to Incheon in spectacular style

Dazzling duty free

Incheon International Airport Corporation’s (IIAC) ambitious duty free programme features a series of category-exclusive stores, new brands and innovative design concepts. By offering a more efficient and spacious shopping area, the IIAC expects a +20% uplift on like-for-like T1 sales.

As reported, Lotte runs the liquor, tobacco and packaged food shops; Shilla the beauty category and Shinsegae the luxury and fashion offer.

Passengers entering the main Lotte Duty Free store today discovered the airport world’s biggest single media wall, a stunning 30.7 x 2.6 m digital screen presenting travel-themed media, art and motion graphics. Lotte is offering 130 brands of liquor and tobacco over 1,400sq m of shopping space.

Premium push: Lotte Duty Free has introduced a wide array of exclusives, limited-edition lines and sampling opportunities in its liquor, tobacco and food stores (all liquor & tobacco photos courtesy of Lotte Duty Free)

(Above and below) The tobacco department features a key emphasis on electronic cigarettes (Photos: (Photo: Ahn Sang Joon)

Shilla also dazzles with 110 cosmetics and fragrances brands under the new concept of ‘Beauty Paradise’. The Asian travel retail beauty powerhouse manages 2,105sq m of space, some three times bigger than at T1. The offer is highlighted by six luxury boutiques from Chanel, Dior, Lancôme, Estée Lauder, SK-II and Sulwhasoo.

The first customer at The Shilla Duty Free’s main T2 cosmetics & perfumes store is presented with a commemorative gift by company officials

Lancôme wows with its vivid merchandising and extensive product range

The Beauty Bar marries the digital and sensory worlds

Want to see what that new lipstick or make-up really looks like? Just look in the Beauty Mirror.

Nine new beauty brands join a blockbuster line-up of international and Korean favourites

Popular Korean skincare brand Sulwhasoo enjoys its own boutique, alongside five other big beauty brands

Six of the best: Chanel (above) and Lancôme, Estée Lauder, Dior and SK-II  (all below) join the beauty boutique line-up. This is bolstered by a diverse generic cosmetics & fragrances offer.

But most probably, the ‘wonder kid’ on the block will be Shinsegae Duty Free, which presents T2’s biggest retail offer in a 4,300sq m central boutique zone featuring 170 brands. The long-time prominent department store operator entered the duty free channel at Incheon T1 in 2015 and has come a long way since. T2 features 20 high-end boutiques, including Chanel, Gucci, Hermès, Valentino, Prada, Bottega Veneta and Fendi. The gigantic façades of Chanel and Gucci, measuring 17.1 x 13.4m, are unmissable for the consumer entering the central shopping area after immigration.

Shinsegae also offer a stylish store for men’s brands and a personal fitting service for its extensive sunglasses collection. Valentino and Rimowa make their Korean airport debuts.

Foods & Beverage – A diverse diet of delight

Sixty food & beverage outlets are managed by three concessionaires, Ourhome, Paris Croissant and Lotte GRS. Courtesy of new technology, customers can place orders through a mobile app and pick up the foods upon their arrival at the terminal. Multi-lingual self-ordering kiosks are another feature.

Ourhome, a leader in championing Korean food culture, is the biggest F&B operator, operating some 3,086sq m under its nicely named Foodium concept. This features Western and Korean foods. Ourhome is the sole airside F&B provider. Passengers entering the Ourhome Foodium can enjoy a 55m-wide single window panoramic view of the runway, while choosing from 13 brands representing a blend of global culinary culture and local champions.

Lotte GRS has introduced a Michelin Star Chef restaurant and 19 brands across 24 outlets. The company today unveiled a new transit area ‘Lounge L’ featuring 84 seats with 30 new fresh & seasonal menus and an urban garden concept to serve transit passengers.

Paris Croissant is offering18 brands over 26 F&B outlets. These include Shake Shack, whose 34sq m outlet is the fast-growing burger-to-beer brand’s biggest in the airport world. Paris Croissant also presents Flower Café, a nature-friendly, green concept in the departures hall.

Built to do business and to improve the customer experience

T2’s opening brings much to the Incheon passenger experience, including a centralised passenger flow, automatic and self-processing, and an eco-friendly business environment.

The value proposition for the passengers is enhanced by innovations such as mobile-app ordering; multi-lingual ordering kiosks; a quick-serve menu; and US$5 meals. The enhanced experience features diverse pop-up shops, a liquor and tobacco tasting and sampling (for e-cigarettes only) bar and a make-up products testing zone.

The growth of aviation demand and a sustained boom in LCC airlines and routes will continue to boost Incheon’s traffic. T2 marks a positive transition that seems set to offer better customer satisfaction and a much more exciting brand offering. The simplified passenger flow, operational efficiency and, not least, accumulated expertise of commercial operators and airport management should also drive revenues positively.

This is a definitively contemporary airport. IIAC is endeavouring to engage the Millennial generation through a pre-planned performance zone and a well-designed digitalised experience. But it’s not just about technology – a plethora of gardens and fountains help make T2 a pleasant environment.

Terminal 2 has opened just in time for next month’s Winter Olympics

Overall, T2 is a landmark statement of the airport company’s continuous mission to create a holistic experience for passengers and to provide a travel retail experience that exceeds their expectations. Now it’s up to the consumer to judge.