Beijing opens sprawling, starfish-shaped second airport as Chinese air travel demand grows

Key Points
  • China built Beijing Daxing International Airport to handle 72 million passengers a year.
  • China is expected to overtake the U.S. as the world's largest air travel market around 2024, according to IATA.
  • The Zaha Hadid-designed Daxing airport cost about $17 billion, according to the airport.
This photo taken on June 28, 2019 shows the terminal of the new Beijing Daxing International Airport.
STR | AFP | Getty Images

China's monument to booming air travel demand opened Wednesday: a sprawling starfish-shaped airport in southern Beijing that could handle up to 100 million travelers a year.

Beijing Daxing International Airport, inaugurated by President Xi Jinping ahead of the People Republic of China's 70th anniversary on Oct. 1, is meant to ease pressure on the older Beijing Capital International Airport, which handled more than 100 million passengers in last year, second in the world to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest.

Journalists walk at the terminal hall after the launching ceremony for the new Daxing International Airport ahead of the 70th founding anniversary of the People's Republic of China in Beijing, China September 25, 2019.
Thomas Suen | Reuters

China is expected to overtake the U.S. as the world's largest aviation market, according to the International Air Transport Association by the mid-2020s, and to handle some 1.6 billion air travelers a year by 2037. China is also developing passenger jets in a bid to take on industry giants Airbus and Boeing.

Staff members walk inside Beijing Daxing International Airport during its first day of operation on September 25, 2019 in Beijing, China.
VCG | Visual China Group | Getty Images

Daxing was designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid, in a starfish-shape with five concourses and four runways, with plans for up to three more in the future to handle 620,000 flights a year. It cost the Chinese government around $17 billion, according to the airport, and was completed in less than five years.

The terminal building stretches out over 700 million square meters, more than 15% larger than terminal areas at London Heathrow. In addition to China Southern and China Eastern, British Airways and Finnair are planning to fly out of Daxing.

Simulated passengers participate in the fifth comprehensive drill at Beijing Daxing International Airport on August 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chen Xiao | Visual China Group | Getty Images