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Advantages for airlines
State-owned China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines
would be the ones moving their Beijing hubs to Daxing, said Mayur
Patel, Asia regional sales director with the air travel intelligence firm
OAG. The move would help both airlines expand their international
networks “over time” under increasingly “liberalised” air service
agreements permitted by Chinese aviation authorities, Patel said.
China Southern, China Eastern, Xiamen Airlines and the govern-
ment-run flagship carrier Air China sent Airbus and Boeing aircraft
models to Daxing for tests on 13 May.
Beijing-based Air China, which will keep its base at Beijing Capital
airport, has long received priority for routes assigned at that space
over China Eastern and China Southern, which are headquartered in
other cities, a June report by the Chinese news website Caixin says.
Offshore-based airlines that already use Beijing Capital say they
will stay as well rather than shifting operations to Daxing. “ We have
decided to maintain existing services to Beijing Capital International
Airport after a careful assessment of capacity and market demand,” a
spokesperson for Taiwan-based China Airlines said. The airline runs
eight weekly return flights on its Taiwan-to-Beijing routes. The spokes-
person did not say why the airline would not fly through Daxing but
said it would “continue to monitor developments in the overall market”
with an eye toward “more diverse and more convenient services.”
Airlines with overseas bases will stay where they are normally
because they see no reason to leave, Patel said. Less congestion at
Beijing Capital, if absorbed by Daxing, could make their movements
easier. Regional airlines with their own hubs might try eventually to
work out of both airports and build up their connecting traffic, he said.
US-based United Airlines will stick with the existing Beijing airport
so its operations stay close to Star Alliance partner Air China “to
continue to provide our customers in China with convenient flight
services to the U.S. and beyond,” airline spokesman Koji Nagata said.
United operates four flights daily from Beijing Capital International
Airport to its four hubs in the continental United States.
The new airport should open slots for foreign airlines hoping to add
Beijing routes, some aviation analysts expect. They should expect
little competition among airlines given “plenty of slots now,” Lin said.
Ups and downs for passengers
The split between Air China and the other two state carriers would
challenge passengers to deplane from an international flight offered
by one and transfer to a domestic flight operated by another if not
at the same airport. The two airports sit two to three hours apart
by driving time, and passengers would need to clear immigration
before leaving the first one. “A key type of confusion here will be
transit,” Lin said. “If you transit from international to domestic, that’s
going to be difficult.”
Both airports expect heavy passenger flows as civil aviation grows
in China, with Beijing a core city as the capital. Civil aviation in China
is due to surpass that of the United States and become the world’s
largest market over the coming decade, the International Air Trans-
port Association (IATA) forecasts. The country processed more than
100,000 flights last year, the Civil Aviation Administration of China
(CAAC) said. China also logged 610 million passenger trips in 2018,
an 11.4 percent increase over 2017.
An additional airport for Beijing could ease China’s chronic issue
of late take-offs, Grant said. “ The expectation is that there will not
be a significant increase in the number of flights that are operat-
ed, since available airspace capacity is in many people’s opinions
unlikely to be changed,” he said. “ The fact that there will now be
two airports operating will hopefully lead to an improvement in
punctuality across both airports and airlines but only time will tell
if that is actually the case.”
But passengers who start their journeys in Beijing may find Daxing
inconvenient at first, said Danny Levinson, an American-born tech
entrepreneur who splits his time between Beijing and Shanghai. The
existing airport’s location north of central Beijing sits close to embas-
sies, ministries, shopping districts and the city’s chief high-tech zone,
he said. Tracts around Daxing south of downtown are less developed.
“My biggest short-term concern with Daxing is that much of Beijing
has grown around the pathway to the old Capital Airport,” Levinson
said. “But my concerns will disappear in a few years as things are
re-balanced with new developments in the south of Beijing,” he said.
Shanghai might foretell Beijing’s future. The US$400 million
Shanghai Pudong Airport opened in 1999 to take pressure off the
Chinese financial hub’s older Hongqiao International Airport. Pudong
siphoned off a lot of Hongqiao’s international flights, qualifying it
eventually for a second terminal and three new runways to ac-
commodate 60 million passengers per year. Hong Qiao, an in-town
airport set up for 40 million passengers annually, now handles
mainly domestic and regional flights. One-time agricultural zones
around the Pudong airport have filled with hotels, shopping and new
housing towers. Shanghai’s metro line connects the two airports.
A Beijing subway line to the Daxing airport opened for trial runs on
15 June. Driverless trains along the 41.4-kilometre track can travel up
to 160 kilometres per hour and can take as many as 448 passengers
each, Xinhua reported. An eventual 50-square-kilometre economic
zone planned near the airport will support an international exhibition
centre, a health centre and a “shopping town,” Xinhua said.
Travellers who use Daxing will find the terminal the same if not
better than those at the existing airport, Patel said. The airport op-
erator, China’s civil aviation administration, plans to expand Daxing
eventually into an airport that can receive 100 million passengers
every year, the CAPA Centre for Aviation says. “In terms of passen-
ger experience, I suspect that the two airports will both provide
world-class leading products, transport links and systems,” he
said. “Chinese government policy has been to create best-in-class,
showcase airports, and passengers can expect to see this in every
aspect of their experience.”
◀ The airport will have enough of everything to process 45 million
passengers annually by 2021 and 72 million by 2025.
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