StudyBoss » Asia » Hong Kong’s International Airport and how it was Built

Hong Kong’s International Airport and how it was Built

Table of Contents

Hong Kong International Airport, also referred to as Chek Lap Kok Airport and HKIA, is situated on Chek Lap Kok, a strategically-located man-made island measuring three and a half miles by two miles (Foster + Partners, 2016). As one of the greatest and most ambitious projects in the civil engineering industry, the construction of HKIA took six years – from 1992 to 1998 – and required an overall investment of more than $20 billion (Kable Intelligence Ltd., 2016). As a result of its complexity, the project had to be divided into ten distinct projects and involved over two hundred contracts, several sponsors and a remarkably large international workforce (Kable Intelligence Ltd., 2016; Major Projects Association, 2001).

Constructed specifically to replace Kai Tak airport, HKIA was meant to accommodate China’s growing demand for multimodal connections and become one of the region’s main cargo gateways and passenger airports (Foster + Partners, 2016a; Major Projects Association, 2001). In 2014, it handled over four million tons of cargo and more than 60 million passengers, thus becoming one of the world’s busiest airports (Airport Authority Hong Kong, 2016a; Airports Council International, 2015). In light of its advantageous position, up-to-date facilities and continuous growth, it has even been estimated that its annual passenger traffic will reach 80 million by 2040 (Foster + Partners, 2016a).

As of today, HKIA’s leisure facilities and amenities comprise approximately 200 shops and restaurants, free Wi-Fi lounge areas, paid Internet lounge areas, Televisions and even an area where children can play (Kable Intelligence Ltd., 2016). Thanks to its top-notch facilities, HKIA has been ranking among the world’s five best airports since 2002 (Kable Intelligence Ltd., 2016). One of its main strengths lies in its excellent multi-modal transport network that connects HKIA to numerous strategic destinations across Hong Kong and Mainland China (Kable Intelligence Ltd., 2016). The Airport Authority is aware of the positive impact that the airport’s multi-modal connections have on its operational efficiency, performance and attractiveness to both domestic and international passengers (The Airport Authority Hong Kong, 2016a). As a result of passengers’ growing demand for fast and efficient transport services, the Airport Authority will keep enhancing HKIA’s connections, which currently include cross-boundary coaches, limousines, ferries, as well as other comfortable arrangements (The Airport Authority Hong Kong, 2016a).

As reported by China Trend Building Press (2011), the international consortium that was awarded the HKIA project consisted of five large companies, namely Amec International Construction Ltd (United Kingdom), CSCEC (China), Kumagai Gumi Co., Ltd (Japan) and Maeda Corporation (Japan), which formed a joint venture called BCJ JV that was responsible for the construction of nearly 90 lifts, 1,5 miles of moving walkways (also known as travelators), over 70 jet bridges and almost 250 check-in desks (China Trend Building Press, 2011).

In order to start building the airport, over 900 hectares of land were reclaimed between the islands of Chek Lap Kok and Lam Chau and a high peak situated on Chek Lap Kok had to be reduced from 100 to 7 metres (Foster + Partners, 2016a).China Trend Building Press, 2011). Specifically, the site onto which the airport platform lies was obtained by razing two pre-existing islands and constructing a dredged reclamation (Covil, 1998, pp. 197-200). As explained by Covil (1998, pp. 197-200), while a drained reclamation was perfectly feasible, the project had to be completed within a short period of time, which made it necessary for the consortium to opt for a fully dredged reclamation, which would have taken less to construct than a drained one. As part of the Site Preparation Contract, the site preparation phase lasted two and a half years and involved a variety of different techniques, including mud dredging, seawall construction and mining (Covil, 1998).

In spite of the numerous technical obstacles that had to be overcome in order to deliver the project in time, the consortium had to deal with a number of political challenges that threatened the successful completion of HKIA (Major Projects Association, 2001). Since Hong Kong was to be handed over to China in 1997, the project contributed to fuelling tensions between the two powers, thus preventing investors from financing the project and making it impossible for an airport authority to be established before 1995 (Major Projects Association, 2001).

Similarly to Stansted airport, which revolutionised airport terminal design with its light roof and fluid structure, HKIA also features a roof canopy that lets a significant amount of natural light in, thus offering passengers a memorable and spectacular air travel experience (Foster + Partners, 2016a; 2016b). Its spacious and luminous internal structure was created by placing all the technical equipment below the main concourse, i.e. the building that allows passengers to reach the aircrafts through the gates (Foster + Partners, 2016a).

As of today, HKIA consists of two large terminals and two runways, and is connected to nearly 200 domestic and international destinations (Airport Authority Hong Kong, 2016a). Since it employs approximately 65,000 people, HKIA contributes greatly to Hong Kong’s economy and its presence has been benefitting the local community ever since its operations began in 1998 (Airport Authority Hong Kong, 2016a) .

The airport is managed and administered by the Airport Authority Hong Kong (also referred to as AA), an institution that is completely owned by the Hong Kong Government (Airport Authority Hong Kong, 2016b). Besides managing the airport’s operations, AA is also responsible for its growth and development and takes its social and environmental duties very seriously (Airport Authority Hong Kong, 2016b). AA is committed to meeting the needs of various stakeholders by keeping HKIA efficient, secure and in line with the latest technological innovations, ensuring passenger safety, making effective investments, sticking to environmentally friendly solutions and practices, promoting its employees’ interests and contributing to the well-being of the entire community (Airport Authority Hong Kong, 2016b) .

In order to ensure that the airport is prepared to handle an ever-growing number of passengers, AA is currently planning to construct a third runway, thanks to which HKIA’s annual capacity should reach 100 million travellers, 9 million tons of cargo and over 600.000 flights within the next fourteen years (Airport Authority Hong Kong, 2016a).

Over the decades, many scholars and experts have developed models and frameworks aimed at helping practitioners assess project success. As explained by Muller & Turner (2007, p. 299), much of the existing project management literature maintains that project success consists of two main components or dimensions, namely project success factors and criteria. The former encompass all those aspects of a project that can be managed and manipulated in such a way to maximise the likelihood of success; the latter refer to the dimensions that help determine the extent to which a project was actually successful (Muller & Turner, 2007, p. 299). As Serrador (2014) pointed out, even though more and more firms are starting to realise that stakeholder satisfaction has a profound impact on the successful outcome of their projects, most project managers still associate project success with efficiency-related criteria.

In an attempt to explore project managers’ attitudes towards project success assessment, Muller & Turner (2007) asked several project managers to rate the importance and usefulness of ten success criteria, including performance and stakeholder satisfaction. Their responses revealed that time, budget and user-defined goals were widely considered to be much more important than stakeholder satisfaction (Muller & Turner, 2007).

That being said, recent research has clearly demonstrated that technical performance and stakeholder satisfaction are two equally important and strongly correlated success criteria (Serrador, 2014, pp. 24-25).

As far as efficient and technical performance are concerned, the HKIA project was certainly successful as it was delivered on time and on budget (Hong Kong International Airport, 2011). It is also worth mentioning that the final result (persistent deliverable) was in line with the original Hong Kong Airport Core Programme and that the project team even managed to save approximately $1 billion (Bechtel, 2016).

With regards to stakeholders’ needs and expectations, the airport’s impact on contractors, end-users, the Government and the local community has been mostly positive.


Considering the size, visibility and innovativeness of the HKIA project, contractors had the opportunity to bid on remarkably large contracts whilst enhancing their reputation. As reported by Kable Intelligence Ltd. (2016), BCJ JV was awarded a $1.2 billion contract for building the main passenger terminal; three large subcontracts were given to a Chinese-Italian-British joint venture, a French company and a Hong Kong-based lift/escalator builder. Other contracts were awarded to Lindner KG (Germany), Paul Y (Hong Kong), Wenco International Mining Systems (Canada), Fujitsu’s ICL (Japan), SigNet (U.S.A.), a joint venture between Downer Edi (Australia), Paul Y (Hong Kong) and McAlpine (United Kingdom), as well as other subcontractors (Kable Intelligence Ltd., 2016).

Hong Kong

Besides expanding Hong Kong’s territory through the creation of new land, HKIA has also contributed to strengthening Hong Kong’s status as one of the world’s largest transportation hubs, and a major commercial gateway (Bechtel, 2016).

Society and end-users

With over 65.000 employees, HKIA has certainly had a positive impact on the local economy. Moreover, it has reduced congestion and provided residents with a fast and efficient service thanks to which they can easily reach the airport in less than half an hour and fly to nearly 200 destinations all over the world (Airport Authority Hong Kong, 2016a; Bechtel, 2016). Specifically, Foster + Partners (2016a) reported that travelling between the city and HKIA by train takes approximately 20 minutes.

As the project’s end-users, passengers can currently benefit from efficient services and top-notch facilities that are improved and enhanced on a regular basis in order to accommodate growing demand. AA has recently reported that operations to build a new cargo terminal began in 2013 and that the airport’s capacity will be increased by investing in a three-runway system which should enable HKIA to handle more traffic (Airport Authority Hong Kong, 2016a). Moreover, AA maintains that its strategy revolves around four fundamental priorities, namely safety, environmental protection, efficiency and passenger convenience traffic (Airport Authority Hong Kong, 2016a).

In view of these considerations, it is evident that the project meets the particular needs of both passengers and local residents. After all, airport operations and air traffic are commonly associated with negative environmental effects, including environmental degradation, increased air pollution and environmental noise – whose correlation with sleep disturbance is well-documented (Dillingham & Martin, 2000; Perron et al., 2012). In this regard, it is worth noting that even though AA’s intention to convert the airport into a three-runway system has been criticised for its potentially negative impact on the environment, ever since its establishment the airport authority has been striving to act like a responsible citizen by managing its operations in an environmentally-friendly manner (Airport Authority Hong Kong, 2016b; Legislative Council Secretariat, 2015).


In 1995, AA borrowed $1, 05 billion from eleven different financial institutions, which helped the project team complete the first phase of the HKIA project (Chapman & Georgoulias, 2010). Between 1995 and 2001, AA raised additional capital by issuing bonds and in 2000, its financial statements reported earnings of over $37 million, which had a remarkably positive impact on investor confidence and resulted in Standard & Poor upgrading the airport authority’s credit rating to AA (Chapman & Georgoulias, 2010). As a result of that, when AA announced yet another issuance of bonds for local retail investors in 2003, the semi-public body raised over HK $1,7 million, three times its initial target amount (Airport Authority Hong Kong, 2003).

In light of the above considerations, it can be inferred that the HKIA project was successful in more than one way. From an operational perspective, Bechtel (2016) reported that the project team completed HKIA ahead of time, delivered all the intermediate and final deliverables included in the initial plan, and even managed to save $1 billion. With regards to stakeholder satisfaction, even though airport operations are likely to have a negative impact on the environment, AA has been minimising such negative implications by promoting environmentally-friendly practices (Airport Authority Hong Kong; 2016b). Moreover, as a large and ambitious project that has resulted in the creation of one of the world’s busiest airports, HKIA has benefitted a wide range of different stakeholders.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Leave a Comment