Started off with being an exclusive privilege of a select few, the Beijing airport, is now set to be one of the busiest airports in the world. So, secure your seatbelts we’re about to take off on a fascinating journey of an airport.
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Beijing Capital International Airport is the primary international airport serving Beijing city in China. And not to the traveller’s delight, it is located 32 km northeast of Beijing’s city centre, in an enclave of Chaoyang District and the surroundings of that enclave in suburban Shunyi District. The airport is owned and operated by a state-controlled company called the Beijing Capital International Airport Company Limited. The airport code is PEK, after the long forgotten Romanised name, Peking.
Beijing Capital has quickly escalated in rankings of the world’s busiest airports in the past decade. By 2009, it was already the busiest airport in Asia in terms of passenger traffic and total traffic movements. It has been the world’s second busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic since subsequent years. The airport registered 557,167 aircraft take-offs and landings, ranking 6th in the world in 2012. In terms of cargo traffic, Beijing airport has also witnessed rapid growth. By 2012, the airport had become the 13th busiest airport in the world by cargo traffic, registering 1,787,027 tons.
Beijing Airport opened on March 2nd, 1958. Back then, the airport was just one small terminal building, which by the way, still stands to this day, apparently just for a few VIPs and their chartered jets. The first International flight to China and Beijing Capital International Airport was of Pakistan International Airlines from Islamabad. As time passed, this place got busier and on 1st January 1980, a newer, larger Terminal 1 was opened, with docks for 10 to 12 aircrafts. The terminal was larger than the one built in the 1950s, but soon enough, its size became relatively inadequate.
In late 1999, to mark the 50th anniversary, the airport got a makeover once again, as Terminal 2 opened on November 1st of that year. Another round of expansion started in 2007. A third runway opened on October 29th 2007, to relieve congestion on the other two runways. Terminal 3 was completed in February 2008, just in time for the Beijing Olympics. And while they were at it, they also included a rail link to the city-centre. With China’s penchant for grandness, at its opening, the new Terminal 3 was the largest man made structure in the world in terms of area covered, and a major landmark representing Beijing as the growing and developing Chinese capital. This T3 covers about 200 football fields in floor space, boasted a capacity of 50 million passengers a year. The expansion was largely funded by a 30 billion yen loan from Japan and a 500-million-euro loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB). The loan is the largest ever granted by the EIB in Asia.
Thanks to hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics and adding its new terminal building, Beijing Capital has overtaken Tokyo Haneda to be the busiest airport in Asia based on scheduled seat capacity. But all that is going to sound modest compared to what’s coming next.
Rising out of farmland about 30 miles south of central Beijing, the new transport hub is a testament to the growth in civil aviation in China — which is expected to overtake the United States as the largest market in the coming years — and the government’s vision to develop its industrial north through infrastructure investment.
Due to limited capacity at Beijing Capital International Airport, a new airport in Daxing is being planned. The project was given final approval on 13 January 2013. Construction began in late 2014 and is expected to be completed this year.
Crews are putting the final touches on what will be one of the world’s largest and busiest airports. Designed by the late British architect Zaha Hadid, the phoenix-shaped Beijing Daxing International Airport is set to open in September as the latest major Chinese project, even as the country’s economy cools. Officials say the $12 billion Daxing airport could one day serve more than 100 million passengers per year, approaching the traffic volumes of the busiest airport in the world, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Rising out of farmland about 30 miles south of central Beijing, the new transport hub is a testament to the growth in civil aviation in China — which is expected to overtake the United States as the largest market in the coming years
— and the government’s vision to develop its industrial north through infrastructure investment.
Construction started in 2014, before China’s economy began to slow. But the project fits the priorities of President Xi Jinping, whose government continues to spend heavily on infrastructure and transportation as key drivers of development.
The new airport in Beijing is also part of a major project by the Chinese government to develop the plain that includes the cities of Beijing and Tianjin as well as smog-blanketed Hebei province, which has mostly relied on agriculture and industries such as steel for economic growth.
Daxing airport will be at the centre of the new economic zone and will be accessible by rail to Xiong’an, a Hebei province farming town where China will relocate many “noncore” central government offices, essentially creating a secondary capital from scratch. The new airport is to serve passengers from 28 cities, who would be able to reach the airport within three hours via high-speed rail.
It has four runways and a 3.37 million-square-foot terminal building, with plans to accommodate 72 million passengers and 2 million tons of cargo annually by 2025. Long-term plans are to handle more than 100 million passengers and 4 million tons of goods annually, with six runways in operation.
Daxing’s eventual projected passenger flow would put it among the world’s busiest airports. By comparison, Atlanta’s airport handled 107 million passengers in 2018 — the most in the world — followed by Beijing’s Capital airport, at 101 million, and Dubai International Airport at 89 million.
Nicknamed “the Starfish” by Chinese media, the Daxing airport will have five concourses spiralling from the primary hall. Five traditional Chinese gardens will be built where passengers can wait for their flights. So, if you’re planning a trip to China, know that your holiday will begin on a pleasant note, right at the airport.