October 2017

6 Asia Business Airports That Get You Nearer Downtown

Read how business travelers are saving time by using Asia business airports to get them closer to downtown.

Economic development throughout Asia has led to modern, purpose-built airports being constructed, making air travel more comfortable and flights more frequent.

But often these new airports are far from downtown making them difficult to reach during rush hour. Happily, the rise of Asia business airports is offering new alternatives.

What are Asia Business Airports?

There is no official definition and the idea for this article came from my personal experiences of frequently flying around Asia as part of my duties as a quality auditor.

Essentially I consider an Asia business airport to be an alternative, smaller second airport which is located closer to downtown than an Asian city's more well-known main airport.

Whilst researching for this article I noticed that these Asia business airports all share most of these features:

  • They are smaller - meaning check-in is usually faster
  • They have fewer runways - meaning fewer flights
  • They are older - meaning they might not be so comfortable
  • They are nearer to downtown - meaning you can get there quickly by taxi, but public transport might not be so convenient

Which Cities Have Asia Business Airports?

Map displaying the 4 key Asia business airports - photo taken at Songshan airport

These alternative airports are all located in large Asian cities, because usually only these cities have more than one airport.

At the heart of these Asia business airports is a network of flights operating between the second airports in Shanghai (Hongqiao), Seoul (Gimpo), Taipei (Songshan) and Tokyo (Haneda).

Taking flights between these second airports can reduce your journey time by many hours as you save time on both departure and arrival.

Although I consider these four airports to be the prime examples, there are some other Asia business airports which I think are worth mentioning.

Although they only serve domestic destinations, Beijing's Nanyuan airport is a great example of an alternative airport in China and Halim Perdanakusuma airport in Jakarta has saved me a lot of time flying in Indonesia. 

In addition to these 6, this article also mentions in brief a few other airports in Asia which can get you closer to downtown but didn't make the list.

Asia Business Airport Profiles

Here are the 6 Asia business airports which I have used to get closer to downtown and save time.

1. Shanghai Hongqiao Airport 

  • Country: China
  • International Flights: Macau, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei
  • Main City Airport: Shanghai Pudong International Airport
  • These Airports Compared:
  Hongiqao (SHA) Pudong (PVG)
Runways 2 3
Year Built 1923 1999
Distance from Downtown 15km 47km

Visitors to Shanghai can save themselves the long trip out to Pudong airport by flying from the Hongqiao transport hub, which as well as being an airport is also one of China's largest train stations.

There are a small number of international flights operating from terminal 1 and it's compact size means check-in and passing immigration is much faster than at Pudong.

Hongqiao airport also has fantastic connections to downtown with metro lines 2 & 10 stopping at terminal 2 and line 10 stopping at terminal 1.

2. Taipei Songshan Airport

  • Country: Taiwan
  • International Flights: Chongqing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Tokyo, Seoul, Hefei, Fuzhou, Wuhan, Wenzhou, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Xiamen
  • Main City Airport: Taipei Taoyuan International Airport
  • These Airports Compared:

  Songshan (TSA) Taoyuan (TPE)
Runways 1 2
Year Built 1936 1979
Distance from Downtown 5km 48km

One advantage of flying into Songshan airport is that you get fantastic views of Taipei, as the airport is very much inside the city. 

With Taipei's Neihu metro line stopping directly at the airport, getting to your downtown hotel or office can literally be just a few stops away. 

Songshan airport flies to many destinations in mainland China as well as Tokyo and Seoul and can easily reduce your journey time by 2 hours compared to the trip out to Taoyuan. 

3. Tokyo Haneda Airport

  • Country: Japan
  • International Flights: Kuala Lumpur, Toronto, Beijing, Paris, Auckland, Bangkok, Chicago, Frankfurt, Guangzhou, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Jakarta, London, Los Angeles, New York, Manila, Munich, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei, Vancouver, Minneapolis, Dubai, Kona, Ho Chi Minh City, San Francisco, Tianjin, Doha
  • Main City Airport: Tokyo Narita International Airport
  • These Airports Compared:
  Haneda (HND) Narita (NRT)
Runways 4 2
Year Built 1931 1978
Distance from Downtown 25km 78km

The most impressive of the Asia business airports, Haneda has in recent years greatly expanded its range of international destinations, since the opening of a dedicated international terminal in 2010.

With convenient transportation links, and located considerably closer to Tokyo downtown than Narita, flying to/from Haneda is a great time saver. 

4. Seoul Gimpo Airport

  • Country: South Korea
  • International Flights: Beijing, Tokyo, Osaka, Shanghai, Taipei
  • Main City Airport: Seoul Incheon Airport
  • These Airports Compared:

  Gimpo (GMP) Incheon (ICN)
Runways 2 3
Year Built 1942 2001
Distance from Downtown 19km 59km

Both of Seoul's airports are to the west of downtown but Gimpo airport is significantly closer.

From Seoul Station there is a metro line which stops at both airports as it travels away from the city. The journey to Gimpo is 4 stops and takes 23 minutes, whilst the trip to Incheon is 11 stops and takes 59.

As a small airport, Gimpo is able to process passengers much faster. Although I certainly wouldn't recommend doing this, I once arrived at the airport for a flight just 20 minutes before take off and still managed to get on-board.

5. Beijing Nanyuan Airport (airport closed September 2019)

  • Country: China
  • International Flights: None
  • Main City Airport: Beijing Capital International Airport
  • These Airports Compared:
  Nanyuan (NAY) Capital (PEK)
Runways 1 3
Year Built 1910 1958
Distance from Downtown 13km 32km

Although scheduled for closure in late 2018, Beijing Nanyuan airport is a very handy option if you are travelling domestic to or from Beijing, with China United Airlines serving over 50 mainland cities.

Unlike Capital airport, which is located in the north, Nanyuan is just to the south of the city. Despite poor transport links, if you need to get downtown quick, a taxi from Nanyuan is usually a time saver.

6. Jakarta Halim Perdanakusuma Airport

  • Country: Indonesia
  • International Flights: None
  • Main City Airport: Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport
  • These Airports Compared:
  Halim Perdanakusuma (HLP) Soekarno-Hatta (CGK)
Runways 1 2
Year Built 1928 1985
Distance from Downtown 12km 30km

Having previously suffered a 3 hour taxi ride from the industrial area of Bekasi to Soekarno-Hatta airport I was thrilled to learn of the emergence of Halim Perdanakusuma airport as a second airport for Jakarta.

Although only domestic destinations are served, and the airport is very compact, flying from Halim is a great time saver and only 12km from downtown. 

Current advanced plans to build an express rail link connecting Jakarta's downtown to the two airports indicates that Halim Perdanakusuma will likely continue to be developed as a business airport.

Other Asia Business Airport Candidates

Here are some other Asian airports which almost made the list.

Bangkok Don Mueang Airport

At 28km from downtown it is 4km closer to the city center than Bangkok's main airport - Suvarnabhumi.

However, Don Mueang has in recent years turned into a low-cost carrier hub so can't really be considered as a "business airport". Further, it's poor transport links mean getting to downtown would in most cases take longer.

Osaka Itami Airport

My visits to Osaka have always seen me fly in or out of Kansai airport, or take the fantastic Shinkansen train, so I've never made it to Itami airport before. 

Exclusively serving domestic destinations, Itami's most popular flights are those serving Haneda airport in Tokyo. Transport to downtown is via Osaka's monorail.

Kuala Lumpur Subang Airport

Being 36km closer to downtown than Kuala Lumpur International airport, Subang airport is a good alternative for domestic flights in Malaysia and for flights to Singapore.


Do you know of any other Asia business airports? Get in touch, we'd love to hear from you!

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