Beijing Daxing Airport - Please, fasten your seat belts

A shining starfish of unbelievable proportions

The “Beijing New International Airport” made a truly perfect landing at its formal opening on September 26, 2019, by President Xi Jinping after only four years of construction. By 2040, an annual turnover of 100 million passengers and 4 million tons of freight are planned. Sound impressive? Don’t forget that – in a sense – this is just a “relief airport”.

Copyright: 王之桐

Like a gigantic copper-colored starfish, the “Beijing New International Airport” adorns the flat landscape at the gates of the Chinese capital. Just in time for the 70th birthday of the People’s Republic of China on October 1st, the new Beijing Daxing mega-airport is now in operation. Not just its dimensions but also the record construction time make this a prestige project and a symbol of the productivity, growth and scale of the Middle Kingdom.

Perfectly shaped and worth billions

“Starfish” is actually the name of the airport building. With a modular design, it extends its arms like tentacles over the flat landscape. The highly functional and perfectly shaped design by star architect Zaha Hadid, who passed away in 2016, and her Chinese planning partner is a wonder to behold. A so-called “endless runway” ensures short paths of no more than 600 meters. Thanks to the short distances, passengers should need no more than eight minutes to reach the departure gates. Organic shapes and plenty of natural light lend the solid construction lightness and expansiveness. Of course, such an architectural wonder has its price – the cost amounted to roughly 17.5 billion US dollars.

100 million passengers by 2040

Right from the start, neither money nor effort was spared in creating the airport. 16,000 people were resettled and twenty former villages were literally leveled to make space for the building and its heavenly aura. The work was completed in shifts under intense pressure. The result is an impressive structure made of 200,000 cubic meters of steel and 100,000 cubic meters of concrete. The main terminal has a ground area of 700,000 m2 with four landing strips, 186 boarding gates, 422 check-in counters, 3,000 displays for flight information, 63 baggage carousels and an annual passenger capacity of 45 million. By 2025, this number will already be up to 72 million passengers, with a long-term aim of a capacity of 100 million. In its final state, a total of eight terminals are planned, compared with the current four, and four million tons of air freight should pass through the airport every year. An expansion to seven landing strips is also planned, which should handle 620,000 departures and arrivals per year. 300 take-offs and landings per hour are already possible.

20 minutes to the center of Beijing

Situated roughly 46 km south of the city center, the three-story airport offers passengers a seamless continuation of their journey into the city in just 20 minutes thanks to an extremely modern rapid transit terminal on the lower level. A dedicated long-distance train station connected to a high-speed rail line also enables smooth arrival and departure by train. This allows the airport to be reached in just 3 hours by rail from roughly 30 major Chinese cities. In this regard, it hardly seems a surprise that a dedicated subway line was also inaugurated on opening day. Plus: A new expressway heading to the city center was also built, of course.

The mammoth construction and infrastructure project is clearly a long-term investment in China’s local and long-distance transportation and in the region around Beijing. In any case, the recently completed airport, with all its superlatives, was actually built “only” to relieve the already existing mega-airport to the northeast, the “Beijing Capital International Airport”. For perspective: Beijing Capital International Airport is considered Asia’s largest airport. In other words, everything is a bit bigger in the ever-ambitious Middle Kingdom, and plans are even being circulated for an eighth landing strip after the year 2040. The goal? 130 million passengers!

A unique construction pushing the boundaries of the possible:

Lots of traffic in the air and on the ground

Largest airports by annual passenger numbers

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (USA): 107 million passengers
  • Beijing Capital International Airport (People’s Republic of China): 100 million passengers
  • Dubai International Airport (United Arab Emirates): 90 million passengers

Largest airports by annual passenger numbers in Europe

  • London Heathrow Airport (UK): 80 million passengers
  • Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle (France): 69.5 million passengers
  • Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (Netherlands): 68 million passengers

 

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