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Chengdu Tianfu International Airport welcomed its first passengers on Sunday. Photo: Xinhua

China opens new gateway to giant panda country as Chengdu’s second airport starts operations

  • The capital of Sichuan province has become the third Chinese city after Beijing and Shanghai to open a second airport
  • Chengdu Tianfu International Airport has the capacity to handle 60 million passengers a year in the transport and tourism hub

Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, has become the third city in China to open a second airport, following in the footsteps of Shanghai and Beijing.

The first flight from Chengdu Tianfu International Airport, took off on Sunday bound for Beijing.

The new facility is expected to significantly reduce the burden on the city’s Shuangliu airport, which last year was the second busiest in China after Guangzhou despite the disruption to air travel caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sichuan is a major tourist destination for travellers drawn by its spectacular landscapes, spicy cuisine and its giant pandas, while Chengdu is expected to emerge as a key hub for flights to Tibet, South Asia and Europe.


China opens new gateway to giant panda country as flights start at Chengdu’s second airport

China opens new gateway to giant panda country as flights start at Chengdu’s second airport

The new airport has three runways and two terminals, giving it a capacity of 60 million passengers a year . In comparison, Hong Kong International Airport’s busiest year was 2018, when it handled 74.7 million passengers.

The new airport is expected to open three more runways – doubling its capacity to 120 million passengers a year – by 2035, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Tianfu airport marks another milestone in China’s airport construction frenzy, following the opening of the Daxing international airport in Beijing in 2019.

Passengers board a Sichuan Airlines flight to Beijing at the new airport on Sunday morning. Photo: Xinhua

Tianfu was the largest airport project included in the country’s recently concluded five-year plan and was built at a cost of 75 billion yuan (US$11.6 billion).

A report published by the China Civil Airports Association in March predicted that by 2035 the country would have about 400 airports compared with 238 at the end of 2019. This would mean about 10 major airports being built each year and ensure that anyone living in a major city would be able to access one within an hour.


China plans to add over 30 new airports to its aviation network by 2025

China plans to add over 30 new airports to its aviation network by 2025

In Chengdu, some residents are worried that the new airport, which is 51km (32 miles) away from the city centre, is too far away.

One Weibo user expressed the hope that airport parking would not be too expensive, saying: “If a plane lands at night, the taxi fee to the downtown area will cost hundreds of yuan, so I want to drive my own car to save money.”

The airport’s two terminals welcomed their first passengers on Sunday. Photo: Xinhua
Han Gao, a 28-year-old freelance writer who lives in downtown Chengdu, was also worried about the location, but her biggest concern was that it would further inflate property prices in the city. 

Han, a native of northeast China, moved to the city to study in 2012 and stayed on after graduating. She said she loved the city, but had not yet been able to buy her own home.

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“In 2016 the average house price in downtown Chengdu was around 10,000 yuan per square metre, now it is more than 30,000.

“I am now settled in Chengdu … but am I going to have to pay for the construction of the new airport?” she asked.