Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport handled a record 46.5 million passengers in 2018, up 3.7% compared with 2017 and maintaining its ranking as one of the world’s busiest airports.

The airport, serving Taipei, the Taiwanese capital, attributed the growth to an increase of LCC flights into the island as well as the government’s so-called New Southbound Policy, which calls for enhanced cooperation with 18 nations from southeast Asia, south Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The policy also saw relaxed visa requirements from these countries.

Taoyuan Airport reported 11.3 million passengers arriving from these countries last year, an increase of 9.8%. In comparison, there were 8 million passengers from mainland China, up 1.9%.

While Taoyuan did not provide specific reasons for the modest Chinese passenger growth, chilly cross-strait relations between Beijing and Taipei may have played a role. One example was the dispute over the M503 route in January 2018, which resulted in more than 176 China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Air flights being canceled during the Spring Festival in February and March.

Passengers arriving at Taoyuan via LCC were up 12% to about 8.5 million.

The airport was the world’s 35th busiest in 2017, according to ATW data.

Looking forward, the airport said it would “promote the expansion” of Terminal 2 and the construction of the third terminal.

The fate of Terminal 2 is unclear as the terminal was initially planned to close in 2021 for a massive renovation, just as the new Terminal 3 enters service. However, the construction of Terminal 3 will not begin until September due to delays in the bidding process, and the completion date has been postponed until 2023.

Chen Chuanren, chuanren@purplelightvisuals.com