Beijing Daxing International Airport topped out the steel structure of its main terminal building on June 30, marking a major milestone on the way to its opening in 2019. It’s then that the world will have a new entry on the list of largest airports. If it opened today, it would rank second in the world (after Atlanta) for passenger capacity and, at 6,600 acres, rank eighth for overall size.
With a projected cost of $13 billion, Daxing will also rank as China’s most expensive airport. That money will build seven runways, 78 gates, and include both a hip capsule hotel and a transportation hub, the latter connecting to both local and high-speed rail lines for easy transit to Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei. At the center of the action will be the 7.5-million-square-foot passenger terminal, the world’s largest, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. The plans for the building, the first airport structure to be completed by Hadid, were unveiled in early 2015, before the celebrated architect passed away from a heart attack in March 2016. Her firm will continue the work with French airport planning and project management specialists ADPI.
The current major airport for China’s capital city is the aptly named Beijing Capital, which opened 20 miles northeast of the city center in 2008 for the Olympic Games, with capacity to see 80 million passengers a year. Less than a decade old, it’s already ranked as the world’s second busiest airport and is stretched well over capacity, with 94.4 million passengers in 2016. At 104 million passengers last year, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is holding down the number one spot, but together, Capital and Daxing airports are capable of welcoming more than 170 million travelers through Beijing each year, with Daxing carrying the brunt of the load with a 100 million annual capacity.
In fact, the country is well on track to become the largest commercial aviation market, surpassing the U.S., the current leader, by 2030. That kind of growth, combined with a developing middle class eager to travel, means China’s airports are stressed, and with a capacity of 100 million passengers a year, the new (and gargantuan) Daxing International Airport could find itself over capacity before too long. For now, fingers crossed for the project to continue moving forward—after all, the world already has one forever delayed mega-airport in the works.
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