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Transport and logistics

300 flights axed as Beijing shuts airport runway for repairs

Maintenance to central runway expected to take most of April

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 March, 2017, 12:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 March, 2017, 11:40pm

Passengers will have to contend with fewer flight choices, longer taxiing times and more delays at Beijing Capital International Airport when one of its runways undergoes four weeks of repairs next month.

The repairs to one of the three runways at the airport, the second busiest in the world, will be carried out from April 2 to April 29, ­according to a statement from the facility.

The work on the middle runway, which carries about 40 per cent of the airport’s traffic, will cut about 300 flights a day, reducing the total number of flights to about 1,400.

Flights of 19 airlines, including Air China, China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines, will be affected, state-run China Central Television reported.

The number of passengers through the facility was expected to drop by between 10 per cent and 15 per cent.

Wang Yanling, the manager of a control centre at the airport, was quoted as saying international flights would not be affected but some domestic flights would be less frequent.

“Airlines will cope by using bigger aircraft and having fuller flights,” Wang was quoted as ­saying.

The runway closure would not affect services by Cathay Pacific Airways and Cathay Dragon, which operates 10 flights daily between Beijing and Hong Kong, an airline spokeswoman said.

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“We do not foresee any reduction required for our scheduled flights to and from Beijing,” the spokeswoman said.

Sun Xiaoyi, another airport official, said the runway closure might result in more taxiing time for aircraft and there would be higher risk of flight delays, Caacnews.com.cn, a website under the Civil Aviation Administration of China, reported. Passengers might also have to wait longer on board planes and at the luggage claim area, Sun said.

Beijing’s main airport has long been criticised for failing to meet scheduled departure and arrival times, but Sun said the airport had drafted a contingency plan to cope with the delays expected during the repair period.

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The repairs will continue in three phases over four years after the runway reopens.

Businessman Yuan Qingzhao, who shuttles weekly between Shanghai and Beijing, said he would switch to taking high-speed trains to avoid the chaos.

“The trains are frequent and on time almost all the time. Better a longer train ride than waiting for a delayed or even cancelled flight at the airport,” Yuan said.

First put to use in 1958 when the airport opened, the middle runway had been in desperate need of repair but the work was delayed because of the disruptions it would cause at the facility.

The airport has surpassed its designed annual capacity, leading services to shift to neighbouring cities such as Tianjin and Shijiazhuang.

Beijing is now building a ­seven-runway international airport south of the capital, which is due to open in 2019.

Additional reporting by Frank Tang and Danny Lee