Kansai Airports looks to Kobe after KIX renovation

By Luke Barras-hill |

The renovated T1 international departure area at KIX opened on 5 December. Source: Vinci Airports.

Future commercial refurbishment plans at Kobe Airport (UKB) are “under consideration” following the opening of the new airside international departure area at Kansai International Airport’s (KIX) Terminal 1, Kansai Airports has told TRBusiness.

Japan’s Kobe Airport is situated on a man-made island off the coast of Kobe, a major city in the Kansai region, and handles domestic flights.

Like Osaka International Airport (ITM) and Kansai International Airport, Kobe operates under the auspices of the Vinci Airports-Orix-Kansai Airports consortium.

Osaka Airport re-opened in 2020 following upgrades including a walkthrough commercial area post-security, similar to KIX.

“Good practices at each airport will be shared among the three airports and utilised for the next investment,” confirmed a Kansai Airports spokesperson.

As reported, the second phase of a substantial airside remodelling project at KIX Terminal 1 that began in 2020 – the new domestic area was opened in phase one – was unveiled by Kansai Airports and Japanese company Orix on 5 December.

‘New airport experience’

The new airside international departure area at the terminal upgrades the commercial experience for passengers with a first-of-a-kind 2,500sq m walkthrough duty free store courtesy of KIX Duty Free, run by Kansai Airports Retail & Services  – see footer for a photo gallery slideshow.

“By introducing one of the largest walkthrough duty free stores in Japan along the flow line to the boarding gate, we aim to increase customer circulation and encourage purchases,” said the Kansai Airports spokesperson.

The new KIX Terminal 1 international departure area boasts seven retail stores, nine F&B units, a walkthrough duty free shop, nine boutiques and one service area. Source: Kansai Airports.

The inauguration took place in the new international departure lounge.

“This renovation project was made possible thanks to Vinci Airports’ long-term investment capacities and operational teams who hold the expertise and know-how to develop best-in-class projects like Kansai International Airport,” a Vinci Airports spokesperson told TRBusiness.

Kansai Airports says the airside area has been enhanced for the benefit of travellers before boarding, with security and immigration control functions now centralised to improve efficiency and passenger flows.

“We offer a ‘new airport experience’ to meet a wide variety of needs with world-renowned luxury brand stores and cafes, a walkthrough duty free store, and restaurants, bars, and stores with a uniquely Japanese feel,” continued the spokesperson.

Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai

Importantly, the new departure zone houses four distinct ‘mood’ areas: ‘Fun’, ‘Curious’, ‘Active’, and ‘Peaceful’.

The thematic islands carry 27 new stores, with high-end offerings from luxury names such as Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, Hermes and Gucci joining novel catering options, local brands and specialties.

“The ‘four Mood’ commercial area, with a mix of restaurants and stores, has been developed to meet the needs of customers,” added the spokesperson. “The aim is to improve customer flow and create synergy among different types of businesses by allowing visitors to experience the variety of Japan.”

The KIX Terminal 1 grand opening is scheduled for Spring 2025, when the majority of the renewal will complete ahead of an expansion of the new international commercial area in August 2026. Source: Kansai Airports.

Nicolas Notebaert, CEO of Vinci Concessions and President of Vinci Airports said in a statement: “This new international departure area demonstrates the know-how of Vinci Airports’ teams and the added value we bring in the countries where we operate. We develop and design innovative projects to position our airports at the forefront of passengers’ expectations and encourage positive mobility.”

The grand opening of the refreshed Terminal 1, which lifts capacity from 23 to 40 million passengers annually, is slated to take place in Spring 2025.

“In phase two, the international departure area will be renovated and in phase three, which will open in the spring of 2025, lounges and other areas related to international arrivals will be completed,” the spokesperson affirmed.

Importantly, it supports Japan’s push to increase tourism numbers ahead of what is expected to be large visitor volumes for Expo 2025 in Osaka.

The spokesperson added: “This will complete the airport functions for the Osaka-Kansai Expo. Aviation demand at the time of the Expo is expected to be even higher than before Covid-19.”

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