00:06Rewind 10 Seconds00:1900:23SettingsFullscreenVideo: China’s Beijing-Daxing Airport (ABC News)
It is billed as the world’s most expensive airport and, at 1 million square metres, as the largest single terminal building: welcome to Beijing’s newest international airport.
The Beijing Daxing International Airport was inaugurated by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, ahead of the Communist Party’s 70th anniversary in power.
Built in less than five years at a cost of 120 billion yuan ($25 billion), the airport is roughly the size of 100 football fields.
The airline’s first commercial flight, a China Southern Airlines plane bound for the southern province of Guangdong, took off on Wednesday afternoon, state broadcaster CCTV reported. Six more flights took off later for Shanghai and other destinations.
The main Beijing airport, located in the city’s north-east, is the world’s second-busiest after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the US state of Georgia, and is nearing capacity.
Star-shaped airport showcases China’s prowess and culture
President Xi Jinping told Chinese state media Xinhua that the airport showed China’s prowess in engineering constructions.
The vast, star-shaped airport is about 45 kilometres south of downtown Beijing. It has four runways, with plans for as many as three more.
Shaped like a phoenix — though to some observers it is more reminiscent of a starfish — the airport was designed by famed Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid. Photo: The departure lobby, where facial recognition technology is used to make check-ins faster and easier. (AP: Naohiko Hatta)
Zaha Hadid Architects London associate director Cristiano Ceccato said the project design itself embraced the special characteristics of China in terms of building airports.
“The Beijing Daxing International Airport is quite unique. It combines best practices of airport design and international standards, together with very advanced knowledge in China about designing and building airports in China,” Mr Ceccato said.
“In that sense, it’s different from other airports around the world in that it embraces very specific technologies, construction methods and planning approaches that are particular to China itself.”
He said the main terminal building also reflected Chinese culture.
“The project itself is very, very centralised,” Mr Ceccato said.
“It’s shaped like a hand, meaning that you have a palm, and you have radiant fingers, and that means all the processing happens in the palm and then the distance to the aircraft in the fingers is actually not very long.
“So it’s a very human, very walkable terminal. Even though it is very large, it is something that still remains very accessible to the individual person, and also, very pleasant to traverse.”
Mr Ceccato said it reflected the unique Chinese culture and was drawn from courtyard houses, vistas, morphology of Chinese buildings and made to uniquely suit the role.
Busiest airport in the world
China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines will be the main domestic carriers at Daxing.
About 50 foreign airlines, including British Airways and Finnair, plan to move all or part of their operations in the next few quarters.
When running at full capacity, the airport is expected to become one of the busiest in the world.
It is expected to handle up to 72 million passengers a year by 2025, eventually reaching 100 million — with 620,000 take-offs and landings. Photo: The vast, star-shaped airport, seen here from above, has four runways. (AP: Mark Schiefelbein)
But despite its size, its builders say travellers will need to walk no more than 600 meters to reach any boarding gate.
It only takes a passenger eight minutes to walk from the centre of the terminal building to the furthest departure gate.
Zeng Qingwei, a passenger taking China Eastern Airlines’ first flight at the new airport, told Xinhua it took him one minute to complete the check-in process with baggage.
“The automated check-in with facial recognition is very convenient,” Mr Zeng said.
Three urban rail lines and several expressways will connect the 5G-covered airport terminal with the city centre, Xiongan New Area and Beijing’s surrounding areas.
The capital has a third airport, Nanyuan, for domestic flights, but the Government says that will close once Daxing is in operation.