Beijing’s new ‘starfish’ airport officially opens


Less than five years after construction began, Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX), an $11.2bn starfish-shaped structure, has been officially opened. Located 46km south of the city centre, the 700,000 sq m airport was developed to ease congestion at Beijing’s existing airport. The terminal has been designed to initially handle more than 72m passengers a year but will eventually accommodate up to 100m travellers by 2025.

President Xi Jinping has identified aviation as a key strategic industry. Within two decades, annual passenger traffic in China’s skies will reach 1.6 bn, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), more than the country’s population today. China has set a goal of having 450 commercial airports by 2035, almost double the number at the end of 2018. It’s also developed a jet to compete with Boeing Co. and Airbus SE.

The new airport should increase Beijing’s passenger capacity by 60% and help unclog the capital’s other international airport. Bottlenecks at Beijing Capital International Airport likely capped annual passenger traffic growth at an average of 4% from 2013 to 2018, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

McKinsey & Co. says the extra slots at Daxing, which will initially have four runways and eventually seven, including one for military use, could open new direct connections to places such as San Diego. Beijing now joins major cities including London, New York and Tokyo with more than one international airport. The high-speed rail connecting Daxing to West Beijing will begin operations at the end of the month.

The opening of Daxing, which will also help closer integrate Beijing with Tianjin and Hebei, should put China on a stronger footing to compete with traditional transits such as Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as younger hubs like Bangkok, Seoul and Kuala Lumpur.

China still trails many major aviation markets in Asia in terms of connectivity, according to a report by OAG Aviation Worldwide. Singapore and Hong Kong are the region’s most internationally connected hubs. Shanghai Pudong International Airport, China’s top entry, came in eighth.

IATA expects 4.6 bn people to take a flight in 2019, a figure that will almost double to 8.2 bn in 2037 as flying penetrates deeper into the enormous populations of India and Indonesia. Daxing is just one of many airport projects underway in Asia, collectively costing more than $100bn, in a race to handle all those passengers. A new terminal opened at Shanghai Pudong International Airport on September 16, 2019.

Daxing expects one-fifth of its passengers to be transferred by 2025. Among international flag carriers, British Airways said in July it plans to shift its direct Heathrow-Beijing flights to the new airport from October 27, 2019, helping it maximise a code-sharing agreement with China Southern. China Eastern has kept its Beijing-Shanghai route at the old airport, which is closer to the central business district.

Source: Air Cargo World/ BBC News