Beijing's huge air terminal ready for takeoff

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2008, 12:00am

Designed to look like a dragon with red, orange and yellow scales, Beijing's new international air terminal, the world's largest airport building, is set to impress when it starts trial operations on Friday.

The management of the Capital International Airport said it was an achievement for Chinese people that Terminal 3, covering nearly 100 hectares, was finished in less than four years and in time for the Olympics.

The terminal is 17 per cent bigger than all the terminals at London's Heathrow airport combined. Work started on the project in May 2004 as part of efforts to handle increasing air traffic, particularly around the Games.

The airport handled 50 million passenger trips last year, surging from 20 million in 2004, and management is expecting 64 million trips this year. The facility was ranked ninth in the world in terms of passenger traffic for 2006.

The travel industry has been calling for more investment in airports to meet the demand for more routes and flights. To partly address the problem, the central government is considering a second Beijing airport.

The 27 billion yuan expansion means the airport is able to handle 76 million passengers a year, the projected total traffic for 2015, sharply higher than the previous capacity of 36 million passengers, airport group deputy general manager Dong Zhiyi said.

'Terminal 3 is the fruit of the Chinese people's intelligence and hard work,' he said yesterday.

'I can't help being proud of it. Also, it is a big challenge for us to ensure good operations.'

He said the terminal was equipped with the world's most advanced service systems.

Asked to comment on the rapid construction compared to the building of western airports, Mr Dong praised the socialist system under which the mainland could make achievements in a relatively short period.

'China is always in a unique situation, which makes us capable of mobilising efforts and doing big things,' he said.

State media have lauded the project's 'world fastest construction speed', describing 50,000 workers sweating to erect columns, lay cables and build roofs, using a huge volume of construction material.

The project also involved the demolition of the homes of more than 10,000 people in nine villages.

Mr Dong said the aim was develop the airport into a world-class hub.