FX Excursions

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Seoul, Incheon Airport

Nov 1, 2011
2011 / November 2011
What happens when one of the world’s preeminent luxury brands opens its doors to the traveling public at one of the planet’s most important air transport hubs? A star pairing, which is exactly what occurred on Sept. 10 when Louis Vuitton’s flagship duty-free shop opened in Seoul’s Incheon International Airport (ICN) at an official ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by airport and Louis Vuitton executives.

Incheon, already a leading duty-free shopping airport, was selected as the location for the luxury brand’s first airport store for several reasons — among them, its quick rise as one of the largest and busiest airports in the world. Incheon is a particularly fast-rising hub for travelers to and from China and Japan, both important markets for Louis Vuitton.

“We are a global brand with a global link, and the design of the Incheon International Airport matched our requirements for an airport store, along with the central location and position,” said Yves Carcelle, chairman and CEO, Louis Vuitton. “The airport store will give the same service and luxury as in a downtown store.”

Located on Airstar Avenue, the store is easy to spot, as the brand’s signature checkered pattern adorns the exterior. Covering nearly 6,000 square feet of space, the Louis Vuitton store is designed with the glory days of air travel in mind. The Vuitton family cited inspiration from travel pioneers such as Albertos Santos-Dumont, the Wright Brothers and Louis Bleriot. In keeping with that philosophy and trend, the store features travel luxury items including trunks, luggage, leather goods, women’s and men’s shoes, belts, ties, textiles, jewelry, sunglasses, watches and accessories.

Louis Vuitton fits in perfectly with its other duty-free neighbors in Incheon’s Duty Free Shop, including Chanel, Burberry, Christian Dior, Givenchy and Furla.

Incheon International Airport, opened in 2001, has developed into a world-class airport in just 10 short years, now ranking as the eighth-busiest passenger airport in the world. Among its unique amenities, the airport houses a golf course, a spa, private sleeping rooms, an ice skating rink, a casino and indoor gardens.

An important aspect of the airport is its dedication to promoting Korea’s heritage. In conjunction with the National Museum of Korea, the airport operates the Korean Culture Museum to introduce Korean culture to transiting travelers. The museum houses artifacts and relics in line with the themes of culture, traditional arts and music and printing/Korean alphabet heritage.

Opened in 2004 near Gate 24 in the East Wing, the Traditional Korean Cultural Experience Zone has continued to grow, now attracting more than 100,000 airport visitors a year, solidifying its position as one of the airport’s main attractions. Travelers can learn how to make traditional Korean artifacts and enjoy traditional performances.

But this is all just the beginning for the airport, where the third phase of its $4.1 billion expansion plan is currently underway. The highlight of the plan is a brand-new $1.4 billion, 3.7-million-square-foot passenger terminal. Construction is scheduled to start in 2012, with completion expected in 2015. Once opened, the new terminal will accommodate about 18 million travelers per year, with 37 gates and spots for 65 aircraft. It will connect to the rest of the airport via an automated people mover, which will be expanded from its current operations at the airport.

Also in the works are a $2.7 billion cargo and logistics terminal and a parking area for nearly 6,000 automobiles.

For those travelers not wishing to make the long drive to Incheon, there’s the Incheon–Seoul A’REX airport express train, first operating between Incheon Airport and Gimpo Airport in 2007 and expanding to the city’s Seoul Station in December 2010.

Passengers have two options. A high-speed service between Incheon and Seoul takes approximately 45 minutes and departs every 30 minutes. A slower train makes stops at 10 stations, departs every six minutes and takes approximately 55 minutes.

When traveling to the airport from Seoul Station, travelers can check in for flights, drop off luggage and be pre-screened in a special immigration lane for outbound passengers.

In the next year or two, the Korea Train Express will extend its service to Incheon Airport, connecting the airport to the outlying towns of Seoul. The 180-mph train will also slash the travel time from Seoul by approximately 15 minutes. In 2013, the Gyeongbu Line connection will make travel accessible from areas including Osong, Daejeon, Dongdaegu, Ulsan and Busan. In 2014, Incheon will connect to the Honam Line, opening up travel between the airport and Iksan, Gwangju Songjeong and Mokpo.

In a move to accommodate the more than 30,000 medical tourists traveling to Korea, a medical center for foreign patients will open near the airport, on Yeongjong Island, in mid-2012. Approximately five minutes from the airport, the center will focus on outpatient services, allowing travelers to stop in upon arrival in or departure from the country. Services will include plastic surgery, skin care, dentistry and traditional medicine. An on-site spa and dietary services round out the care routine at the center, which will also cater to layover travelers. According to The Korea Times, around 100 staffers will be fluent in a number of languages, with marketing and health insurance employees available as well.

In 2009, Incheon International Airport welcomed its first Airbus A380 service, operated by Emirates. Korean Air’s first A380 landed at the airport in June 2011, with service between New York (JFK) and Incheon launching in August and from Los Angeles (LAX) in October. By the end of the year, Korean Air will operate four A380s from the airport. The airport is also a hub for Asiana Airlines.

Frequent travelers are always looking for a unique, atypical airport experience, and Incheon International Airport offers just that, with continued plans for development, expansion and added amenities and attractions. While essentially still in its adolescence, the airport is a destination unto itself. Travelers, airlines, brands and others are all standing by, waiting to see where adulthood will catapult this ever-evolving, world-leading airport. To learn more, visit www.airport.kr/eng.

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