Beijing airport mega-terminal opens

China unveils latest state-of-the-art construction ahead of 2008 Olympics.

    The new terminal cost more than $3bn and took four years to build [GALLO/GETTY]

    A British Airways flight from London landed a few hours later.


    The new terminal provides much-needed extra capacity for the Chinese capital's airport, but analysts say that with China's booming economy it may not be long before it is once again stretched to the limit.


    The airport's second terminal only opened eight years ago and quickly became overstretched.


    Al Jazeera's Melissa Chan, reporting from Beijing, says says the expansion of Beijing's airport will cater more to the rapid growth in domestic travel than for international routes.


    The building is the largest and most advanced
    airport terminal in China [GALLO/GETTY]

    She says that across the country the government has budgeted some $60bn to build new airports to cater for the soaring demand for air travel, with plans in progress to build a separate second airport for Beijing.


    It is however uncertain if the new complex will improve existing service standards, which airport officials have admitted were well below other major air hubs in the region.
    Ait travellers passing through Beijing frequently complain of long queues and unhelpful staff.

    In 2006, Beijing airport, the ninth busiest in the world in terms of passenger volume, was ranked 62nd in a survey of passenger satisfaction by the Airports Council International.


    'Flying like a dragon'


    The new terminal is one a series of multi-billion dollar construction projects launched across Beijing in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics.


    Beijing's latest landmark boasts a three-kilometre concourse divided into three sections and connected by a high-speed commuter train that can shuttle people into the city in just under 15 minutes.


    About 50,000 people worked on the construction project which was completed in less than four years.


    It is designed to look like a dragon, complete with triangular windows cut into the ceiling to resemble scales, and is built to maximise the use of natural light with walls of glass.


    The new terminal's baggage system can 
    move up to 19,800 bags per hour [EPA]

    Goman Ho, the chief structural engineer of the terminal project, said the colour scheme and shape of the building was designed to depict ancient China.

    "Yellow colour is the colour in ancient China that means 'king' or 'dragon'," he told Al Jazeera.


    "So this basically means that the people are flying like a dragon. Or, the Chinese people will be flying up like a dragon."


    The complex has a state-of-the-art-baggage system that can handle almost 20,000 bag per hour, while the runway is capable of handling Airbus' A380 superjumbo jetliners.

    It has almost double the number of boarding gates of the old airport terminals and nearly 300 check-in desks.


    There are also 64 Western and Chinese restaurants and 90 retail shops in the new terminal building.


    Six airlines – Sichuan Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Qatar Airways, Qantas Airways, British Airways and El Al Israel Airlines – will initially move into Terminal 3, followed by others later next month.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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