Beijing’s Hadid-designed $63bn airport opens

The existing Capital International Airport in Beijing’s northeas has capacity constraints that often cause flight delays. (File/AFP)
Updated 25 September 2019

Beijing’s Hadid-designed $63bn airport opens

  • New hub has four runaways, is expected to handle up to 72 million people a year by 2025

BEIJING: Beijing’s new multi-billion dollar airport, Daxing International, was formally declared open by President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, days ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

The 450 billion yuan ($63 billion) project, completed in less than five years, will give a boost to infrastructure growth, flagging amid the biggest economic slowdown in decades, as China and the US remain locked in a trade war.

The airport was hailed as “a new powerful source of national development” at a ceremony overseen by Xi in which top government officials, including He Lifeng, the head of state planning and vice premier, Han Zheng, participated.

The phoenix-shaped airport, abbreviated as PKX, is located in Beijing’s south and will help ease pressure on the existing Capital International Airport in the city’s northeast, where capacity constraints often cause flight delays.

Designed by the firm of Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid, who died in 2016, the new airport boasts four runaways and is expected to handle up to 72 million passengers a year by 2025, eventually reaching 100 million.

China aims to build Daxing, which is expected to become one of the world’s busiest airports, into a global aviation hub, as the country is forecast to overtake the US as the world’s largest aviation market by 2022.

Rising out of farmland, Daxing airport is about 46 kilometers away from Tiananmen Square, almost twice the distance from Capital airport to central Beijing.

It will also accommodate passengers from the neighboring areas of Hebei and Tianjin, linked by a sprawling network of high-speed and inter-city trains, metros and public buses.

An express train from the airport will take about 20 minutes to reach the south of Beijing.

China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines are the main airlines at Daxing, while 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 percent of the capacity at Daxing.

Against an initial plan for China Southern and China Eastern to move all operations to the new airport, with each getting 40 percent of its capacity, China Eastern has retained its highly profitable Beijing-Shanghai route out of the old airport.

The relocation of all airlines is set to be completed by winter 2021.


Virus may slash $29 billion from airlines’ revenue

Updated 12 min 19 sec ago

Virus may slash $29 billion from airlines’ revenue

TOKYO: The outbreak of the coronavirus  threatens to erase $29 billion of revenue for global airlines, mostly for Chinese carriers, as travel crashes worldwide, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The trade group for global airlines said Thursday that the virus causing COVID-19 had the potential to cause a 13 percent decline in demand for Asian carriers this year.

The contraction comes following following a period of sales growth for Asian airlines.

Global air traffic will be reduced by 4.7 percent for the year, marking the first overall decline in demand since the financial crisis of 2008, the IATA said. How profits will be affected was still unclear.

The estimates foresee a scenario where COVID-19 has a “V-shaped impact,” similar to what happened during the SARS virus outbreak in 2003, with a sharp dive followed by a quick recovery, according to IATA.

International airlines including the UK’s British Airways, Germany’s Lufthansa, Australia’s Qantas and the three largest US airlines have suspended flights to China, in some cases until as late as April or May.

Cathay Pacific asked employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave to help it weather the crisis.

Travel restrictions inside China and fear of the illness have devastated demand for domestic flights in the fast-growing China market.

Many nations are warning people not to travel to China, or barring travelers from China, especially from the Wuhan area, at the center of the outbreak.

People around the world are also voluntarily scaling back travel, while some governments and health experts are encouraging people to stay indoors not only in China but also South Korea and Japan to avoid getting infected.

“These are challenging times for the global air transport industry. Stopping the spread of the virus is the top priority,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “This will be a very tough year for airlines.”

Analysts at Cowen, a US investment bank and financial services company, noted IATA might be underestimating the impact on Asia travel outside of China, noting the recent reports of dozens of cases in South Korea.

“While still relatively small, and too early to tell if it will spread further, we see this as a material negative data point on the global containment of the virus,” the report said.