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.
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.
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.