The biggest airport in the world has opened
As the world’s fastest-growing aviation sector, China has launched Beijing Daxing International Airport in September 2019. The US$12 billion Beijing Daxing International Airport will overtake Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta to become the biggest airport in the world. Eventually, it will serve over 100 million passengers a year as part of China’s aviation expansion plan.
Beijing Daxing International Airport opened on September 30th 2019, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has announced. Construction of the airport, which began in 2014, was completed on June 30th.
Size and cost of the biggest airport in the world
Beijing Daxing International Airport is expected to serve 45 million passengers by 2021 and 72 million by 2025. September’s initial opening phase features four runways, which will expand to seven over time. The long-term goal is to handle over 120 million passengers per year and four million tonnes of cargo. This will launch Daxing above the world’s current biggest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, which serviced 107 million passengers in 2018.
To date, Daxing Airport has cost US$12 billion to build and is expected to offer 630,000 flights per year. Construction has required more than 40,000 workers, 52,000 tonnes of steel and 1.6 million cubic metres of concrete. Twice the size of Beijing’s existing Capital International Airport, Daxing is spread over 18 square miles, including runways. The huge new terminal alone covers 700 thousand square metres, the size of 97 football pitches, and there will be 268 parking bays.
Where is Beijing Daxing International Airport?
The new airport is located between Beijing’s Daxing district and Langfang. While the airport sits 31 miles south of congested Beijing, it is connected to the city by a high-speed train travelling at speeds of up to 217 miles per hour. It is thought that passengers from 28 cities across China will be able to reach the airport in three hours using high-speed rail. There will be an integrated transport centre beneath Daxing terminal with a station for high-speed and local rail services linking to Beijing and beyond. In addition, there are highways leading to and from the airport.
China’s growing aviation sector
Before Daxing, Beijing’s Capital International Airport was the second-busiest airport in the world by passenger volume. In 2018, 100 million passengers passed through the airport, which is only intended to have a maximum capacity of 83 million. According to the CAAC, the rise in Chinese flyers has contributed to the congestion in China’s airports, with annual passenger traffic for the country reaching 1.26 billion in 2018, a rise of over 10 percent on the previous year.
According to the New York Times, this means that China is home to some of the world’s worst delays and missed connections. It is hoped that Daxing will take the strain off Capital International, which will remain one of the largest airports in China. The airport features a US$3.6 billion terminal that opened in advance of the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008 to accommodate an extra 50 million passengers per year.
Daxing is part of China’s strategy to boost its aviation sector and improve its flight record, with a current target to build or expand over 74 airports by 2020, taking the country-wide total to 260. If successful, this means that China will overtake the USA as the world’s biggest air travel market by 2022, serving around 720 million passengers each year. The government also hopes that Daxing will stimulate growth and development in the poorer Hebei and Tianjin provinces, which have traditionally relied upon industries like steel and agriculture.
The business aviation industry hasn’t yet reached its full potential in China, as hard-to-secure runway access means departure times must be booked in advance. With the opening of the new Daxing International Airport, the industry is expected to see more interest in private jets for sale in China.
Beijing Daxing International Airport design
Daxing Airport was designed by the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, who has created some of the world’s most innovative buildings, including the Port House in Antwerp and Bridge Pavilion in Zaragoza. Hadid worked on the futuristic Daxing terminal design with ADP Ingeniérie, a firm that specialises in airport design, after they won the bid for the airport in 2014. After Hadid passed away in 2016, her firm took on the project and will see it through to completion.
The biggest airport in the world boasts a unique phoenix shape, which has earned it the nickname ‘starfish’ by Chinese media – in contrast to Beijing Capital Airport’s dragon-inspired design. The central hub has six curved spokes extending outwards, reflecting traditional Chinese architecture that connects spaces around a central courtyard. This design guides passengers seamlessly through departure, arrival and transfer zones to the central hub, which has all services and amenities.
This radial design is also intended to decrease passengers’ travel times by shortening distances from check-in to the gate. This means that passengers will only need to walk eight minutes – 600 metres – from the central hub to the farthest gate and baggage will arrive just 13 minutes after touchdown. Daxing airport also boasts cutting-edge technology such as facial-recognition devices.
Surrounded by nearly 70 square miles of forest, top airport design features include five traditional Chinese gardens in the passenger waiting areas for international and domestic flights. Colours and materials have been selected that reflect Chinese culture, with clean, curved lines and open spaces. Flowing pillars run from the vaulted roof, where natural light filters in from large windows. Energy efficiency is key to the airport’s design, with shading strategies and high-performance glazing.
Which airlines will operate from Beijing Daxing International?
Beijing Daxing International Airport will be the hub for Skyteam, one of the top global airline groups. Its Chinese members include China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines, two of the country’s ‘big three’ carriers. Beijing Capital Airlines has also relocated to Daxing and other Skyteam members such as Korean Air and Delta operate at the airport. Capital International Airport remains the base for Air China, Hainan Airlines and Grand China Air.
According to China’s aviation regulator, foreign air carriers will be able to choose whether to use Daxing, Capital or Nanyuan airport when operating in Beijing. While no official statement has been made, sources predict the Chinese government will consolidate all business and private aviation to Capital International Airport once commercial traffic slows. This plan would be highly preferential to business travellers and private jet charter passengers, as the old airport is far closer to the city centre.
The five largest airports in the world
So, come September, Beijing Daxing International will claim the title of the world’s biggest airport. But what were the five largest, busiest airports by passenger number in 2018?
1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International: 107,394,029 passengers
2. Beijing Capital International Airport: 100,983,290 passengers
3. Dubai International Airport: 89,189,387 passengers
4. Los Angeles International Airport: 87,534,384 passengers
5. Tokyo Haneda Airport: 87,131,973 passengers
Although these numbers are huge, when Beijing Daxing International is up and running, it will far surpass these figures with expected passenger numbers of close to 120 million!
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