Yesterday, April 1, 2018, the operations of Kobe airport were handed over from the city to a private company, Kansai Airports Kobe – a subsidiary of Kansai Airports, the operator of the two Osaka airports.
Privatization of Kobe Airport
The privatization process started in late 2016 when Kobe city announced its plan to privatize Kobe airport. While more than one company participated in the tender, Kansai Airports received the first right of refusal as the government aimed to consolidate the operation of the three airports located in the area.
The negotiations resulted in a contract signed on September 26, 2017, with the goal of transferring the operations from the city to the company on April 1, 2018.
And, as planned, yesterday, Kansai Airports Kobe – a fully-owned subsidiary of Kansai Airports took over operations of Kobe airport, bringing the operation of Itami, Kansai, and Kobe airports under one umbrella.
The Smallest of the Three Kansai Airports
Currently, Kobe airport is served regularly only by domestic flights by four airlines – ANA, Skymark Airlines, Air Do, and Solaseed Air. And, in last fiscal year, it served a bit more than 2.5 million passengers.
For comparison, the two Osaka airports – Itami and Kansai – served about 15 and 25 millions of passengers respectively. As such, Kobe airport currently plays only a very minor role in the region as compared to Kansai airport, the international and low-cost airline hub in the region, and Itami, the domestic hub.
Going forwards, it will be interesting to see how Kobe airport evolves – especially since currently, the government restricts the airport to 30 daily flights to “protect the growth of Kansai airport.”
And, since the airports are fairly close to each other. In fact, Kobe and Kansai (pictured below) airports are both located on artificial islands in the Osaka Bay and are connected by a ferry!