London Heathrow Airport has topped the world’s busiest airport list (by international passengers) for the past 11 years, but the rank will certainly change when Beijing’s Daxing airport opens.
Currently under construction, the new airport will be Beijing’s third airport -- after Beijing Capital International Airport and the semi-military Nanyuan Airport -- and will occupy a total of 54 square kilometers with nine runways.
Due to be completed in 2015, Daxing airport is expected to handle 120 to 200 million passengers a year. That’s twice, or even three times, the capacity of Heathrow’s current annual passenger flow.
The airport is planned only three years after the third terminal of Beijing Capital International Airport was put into operation.
Designed to manage air traffic during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the terminal was then the world's largest airport building, with more floor space than all five Heathrow terminals combined.
Even that is not enough to handle China’s fast-growing air travel demand.
"The existing airport in Beijing has an annual capacity of 75 million passengers. Last year it handled 73 million," Cao Yunchun, a professor at China Civil Aviation University, told The Telegraph.
"In two years, it will be totally packed. And it cannot be expanded infinitely," he added.
According to Li Jiaxing, the minister in charge of China's Civil Aviation Administration, it is not possible to add even one more flight to Beijing Capital’s tight daily schedule.
The Beijing government has yet to announce details of the new airport. No state-owned Chinese media have reported on the progress of the project since discussion over the proposed airport's location three years ago.
But according to The Guardian, Daxing airport will be located about 50 kilometers southwest of Beijing, in Nangezhuan, a village on the border of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province.
The new facility is expected to serve not only Beijing, but also the two neighboring cities and provinces as part of the Chinese capital's morphing with Tianjin and Hebei into a mega-zone.
A new expressway and a high-speed rail link is slated to be built to transport passengers from Daxing to Beijing in about 30 minutes.
China's air traffic continued to soar in 2010, hitting 268 million boardings, a 16.1 percent increase from the previous year.
China plans to increase its total number of airports from 175 to 230 over the next five years. The country is forecast to buy at least 4,300 new jet aircraft in the coming two decades.