This Wednesday, after an opening ceremony led by President Xi Jinping, China Southern was the first airline to operate a commercial flight to Guangzhou from the brand-new Beijing Daxing International Airport, located about 46 kilometers from the city center, as reported by China Daily.
Six other flights – Air China heading to Chengdu, China Eastern to Shanghai Pudong, China United Airlines to Yan’an, Beijing Capital Airlines to Hangzhou, Xiamen Air to Xiamen and Hebei Airlines to Fuzhou – followed suit soon after, with flights clearing before 5pm that day.
Built to expand Beijing’s capacity to welcome visitors and take pressure off of the overcrowded Beijing Capital International Airport (the second busiest airport in the world), the new aviation hub is the world’s largest single-terminal airport, with a total area of 47 square kilometers. There are four runways for commercial flights, capable of handling 300 takeoffs and landings every hour, and equipped with many advanced technologies such as a robot-operated parking system and facial recognition system for a quick check-in process.
The late Zaha Hadid’s design was described as resembling a phoenix, an auspicious bird in Chinese legends, but has since been nicknamed ‘starfish’ after the aerial pictures of the complete airport were released. The five concourses joined at the center are supposed to minimize passengers’ commute time – distance from the center of security check to the most remote gate is about 600 meters, or an eight-minute walk – and they contain everything a small city needs, from pet hotels to work zones.
It is expected to minimize delays that commuters often anticipate at the Capital Airport, due to higher operational efficiency of multi-directional runway design and its location in south Beijing, from where flights will be less likely to encounter no-fly zones. Although it’s located farther away from the city center, one of the main draws of the new airport is that it will likely offer cheaper flights.
The official opening of the new Daxing airport also marked the end of an era: the closure of the historic Nanyuan airport, which first opened in 1910.
[Cover image via China Daily]