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Beijing – Where is the New Airport Being Built?

New Beijing Airport

 

Today’s trending aviation news comes courtesy of the new Beijing airport and Paris airport strike alert.

Beijing Internation Airport

New Beijing Airport Will Have The World’s Largest Passenger Terminal – The current top 5 biggest single passenger terminals are all located in the Northern Hemisphere. Dubai International Airport (DXB)’s Terminal 3 has been holding the distinction as the largest since 2008.

World's Largest Single Passenger Terminal in Size
World’s Largest Single Passenger Terminal in Size – Information taken from Wikipedia. Infographic create by Experience The Skies. February 12, 2015 (All Rights Reserved)

With explosive population growth in the Greater Beijing Region (over 21.5 million in 2014 which far exceed 18 million planned for 2020 by the government – source) , the capital airport last updated in 2013 will run out of capacity within the next 5 years. As such, the Chinese government scouted locations for a brand new airport and settled in the area of Daxing District. It is approximately 46km (29miles) south of downtown Beijing and has low commercial and residential density (refer to the map below for the locations).

Beijing Airports Future Plans
Beijing Airports 2015 Image created by CellarDoor85 (Robert Aehnelt)

The new star shaped airport features a design from Zaha Hadid Architects and will be completed by 2018 (refer to the promotional pictures below). At completion, it will take over the No.1 spot for the biggest single passenger terminal.  The current international airport (PEK) will continue to be utilized afterwards. How it would be used have not been finalized by the airport authorities (refer to analysis on different options).

New Beijing Airport
New Beijing Airport – Image taken from Zaha Hadid Architects on February 12, 2015

From the pics below, the terminal will feature high ceiling, lots of natural lighting and curves.

New Beijing Airport
New Beijing Airport – Image taken from Zaha Hadid Architects on February 12, 2015

A direct express train service and a web of highways will be made to transfer passengers from the city to the airport. There will likely be an hotel located onsite.

New Beijing Airport
New Beijing Airport – Image taken from Zaha Hadid Architects on February 12, 2015

The initial phase started construction in December 2014 and is  tentatively scheduled for completion by 2018 with a 45 million passenger capacity. It will replace services from the nearby Beijing Nanyuan Airport (NAY) and include 7 runways (6 for passengers and 1 for cargo). There is enough space to add more runways on site in future phases.

Beijing New Airport
Beijing New Airport- Image taken from www.wcarn.com on February 12, 2015

Analysis

There is no decision on how to use both airports after the 2018 completion. For analysis purposes, the following are options available:

1. Air China and Star Alliance

From an operation perspective, it is more beneficial to move the entire airline alliance over to the new airport. Air China (CA), the leading airline based in Beijing, would want to move to new facilities to offer additional comforts for its passengers. As 20 out of 26 Star Alliance airlines currently operate into PEK, it would make sense to house them in one place for ease of transfers.

2. Separating domestic and international operations

There are talks to separate domestic and international operations separately into the two airports. This option is not ideal as the distance between them is over 50km (25miles). Even with the airport authority builds a high speed train to connect the airports, it would add significant time and could create strain for the passengers. Air China’s operations would be impacted if this scheme is implemented. Mumbai (BOM) is an example where domestic and international operations are separated into two sites. Due to traffic and logistical challenges, a transfer between both could take over 25 hours.

3. Move a smaller airline alliance to the new airport

SkyTeam and OneWorld both a majority of their member airlines operating into Beijing. Both would like to move into the new airport. The possibilities may be smaller for both though OneWorld has a better edge since Air China and Cathay Pacific owned shares of each other. As Cathay Pacific is part of OneWorld, there may be economic benefits for Air China to recommend moving the One World alliance over to the new site.

4. Move all full service airlines to the new airport

This may be possible by 2018 as lower cost carriers continue to expand in the Chinese market. They can occupy in the existing three terminals at PEK while all the full service airlines (mostly from the 3 big alliances) can use the new airport. This will ensure that international passengers would have a consistent experience flying into Beijing.

 

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