BEIJING: The first commercial flights from Beijing's new Daxing International airport took off on Wednesday (Sep 25).
Built at a cost of US$63 billion, the airport is roughly the size of 100 football fields and is expected to become one of the world's busiest. It boasts four runways and is expected to handle up to 72 million passengers a year by 2025, eventually reaching 100 million.
The starfish-shaped airport, located in the south of China's capital, will help relieve pressure on the existing Capital International Airport in Beijing's northeast, where capacity constraints often cause flight delays.
The new airport, abbreviated PKX, was hailed as "a new powerful source of national development" at the opening ceremony overseen by President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, ahead of the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China.
A China Southern Airlines Airbus A380 flight to Guangzhou was the first to fly out.
Rising out of farmland, Daxing airport is about 46km away from Tiananmen Square, almost twice the distance from the Capital airport to central Beijing.
An express train from Daxing will take about 20 minutes to reach the south of Beijing.
Daxing will also accommodate passengers from the neighbouring areas of Hebei and Tianjin, linked by a sprawling network of trains, subways and public buses.
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.
Flag carrier Air China won 10 per cent of the capacity at Daxing.
The relocation of all airlines is to due to be completed by the winter of 2021.
With the opening of Daxing, Beijing Nanyuan Airport, China's oldest airport, will cease operations from Thursday.
CHINA'S AVIATION GROWTH
By 2040, Daxing is expected to have expanded to eight runways and will be able to welcome 100 million passengers per year. This would make it the world's largest single terminal in terms of traveller capacity, according to its designers.
Atlanta airport in the United States - the world's busiest airport - can receive more than 100 million passengers, but across two terminals.
Air transport is booming in China as living standards increase along with peoples' desire to travel. Indeed, it will pass the US to become the world's biggest aviation market by the mid-2020s, according to the International Air Transport Association.
The country will see 1.6 billion plane journeys each year from 2037 - a billion more than in 2017, the organisation estimates.
China's capital - with its 21 million people - expects to welcome 170 million passengers in 2025, split between the two airports.
At 700,000 sq m, Daxing International will be one of the world's largest airport terminals.
The building was designed by Anglo-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who died in 2016, in conjunction with the engineering subsidiary of Aeroports de Paris.
Inside, it stands out for its flowing, curved lines and use of light that filters down to the lowest levels of the building through openings in the roof.
Underneath the terminal is a train station and metro line that will allow travellers to reach the city centre in 20 or so minutes.
The project cost 120 billion yuan (US$17.5 billion), or 400 billion yuan if rail and road links are included.