Chinese president, Xi Jinping, yesterday presided over the inauguration of a second international airport for Beijing with a terminal billed as the world’s biggest.
Beijing Daxing International Airport, built in less than five years for N5.88 trillion (120 billion yuan /$16.8 billion), is designed to handle 72 million passengers a year.
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 Chinese capital’s main airport is the world’s second-busiest after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and is nearing capacity.
Daxing, designed by the late Iraqi-British architect, Zaha Hadid, includes a terminal billed as the world’s biggest at one million square metres (11 million square feet).
Despite that, its builders said travellers would need to walk no more than 600 metres (2,000ft) to reach any boarding gate.
The vast, star-shaped airport is 30 miles south of downtown Beijing. It has four runways, with plans for as many as three more.
Both foreign and domestic carriers have plans to move their operations to the new airport, and British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Finnair have already announced new routes to tap into the potential of the modern aviation hub.
The SkyTeam alliance, which includes Delta, Air France and Dutch airline KLM, was also expected to move there, along with local partners Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines.
But when contacted last week, Delta and Air France said the decision on whether to move to the airport had not yet been made.
The third-largest Chinese airline, Air China, is expected to keep flying the bulk of its flights from Beijing Capital International Airport.
Aviation analyst, John Strickland, said: “Switching airports can be a complex decision for airlines.
“Airlines would prefer to see a new airport open and overcome teething problems before moving services from another tried and tested airport.”
Beijing has a third airport, Nanyuan, for domestic flights, but the government said that would close once Daxing is in operation.