Beijing's giant new airport set to open on eve of China's 70th birthday

The new Beijing Daxing International Airport covers 700,000 sq m and is located 46km south of Tiananmen Square. It will operate at full capacity in 2025, with four runways and the potential to receive 72 million passengers per year.
The new Beijing Daxing International Airport covers 700,000 sq m and is located 46km south of Tiananmen Square. It will operate at full capacity in 2025, with four runways and the potential to receive 72 million passengers per year.PHOTO: AFP
A worker walks inside the terminal hall of the Beijing Daxing International Airport while it was under construction on June 19, 2019.
A worker walks inside the terminal hall of the Beijing Daxing International Airport while it was under construction on June 19, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - Beijing is set to open an eye-catching multi-billion-dollar airport resembling a massive shining starfish, to accommodate soaring air traffic in China and celebrate the communist government's 70th anniversary in power.

Work on the Beijing Daxing International Airport officially ended on schedule on Sunday (June 30), ready for a Sept 30 inauguration - on the eve of the anniversary of the foundation of the People's Republic on Oct 1, 1949 by Mao Zedong.

Celebrations of that event will see President Xi Jinping reviewing a huge military parade through the centre of Beijing, with the opening of the futuristic hub a fitting embodiment of the "Chinese dream" he has offered his fellow citizens.

Located 46km south of Tiananmen Square, the new airport will operate at full capacity in 2025, with four runways and the potential to receive 72 million passengers per year.

BIGGEST AVIATION MARKET

By 2040, the hub is expected to expand to eight runways including one for military use, and will be able to welcome 100 million passengers per year - which will make it the world's largest single terminal in terms of traveller capacity, according to its designers.

Atlanta airport, in the United States, can currently receive more than 100 million passengers, but across two terminals.


The interior of the Beijing Daxing International Airport terminal. PHOTO: XINHUA

 
 
 

The current Beijing Capital International Airport - the world's second largest - is already overflowing, with just over 100 million passengers annually.

Air transport is booming in China as living standards increase along with people's desire to travel. Indeed, China will pass the US to become the world's biggest aviation market by the mid-2020s, according to the International Air Transport Association.

The country will see 1.6 billion plane journeys each year from 2037 - a billion more than in 2017, the organisation estimates.

China's capital - with its 21 million people - expects to welcome 170 million passengers in 2025, split between the two airports.

100 FOOTBALL PITCHES

At 700,000 sq m - about the size of a hundred football pitches - the new structure will be one of the world's largest airport terminals.

The building was designed by Anglo-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who died in 2016, in conjunction with the engineering subsidiary of Aeroports de Paris.

Inside, it stands out for its flowing, curved lines and use of light that filters down to the lowest levels of the building through openings in the roof.


Workers walk through the terminal building of the new Beijing Daxing International Airport in Beijing on June 26, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

Underneath the terminal is a train station and metro line that will allow travellers to reach the city centre in around 20 minutes.

The project cost 120 billion yuan (S$23.7 billion), or 400 billion yuan if rail and road links are included.

State television channel CCTV reported that the SkyTeam alliance, which includes Delta Air France and KLM, will move over to the new airport, along with its partner Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines.

The third-largest Chinese airline, Air China, is expected to keep flying the bulk of its flights from Beijing Capital International Airport.