The race for the sky is changing as Beijing closes in on the title of world’s busiest airport. As household disposable income rises in China, there has been a major influx of passenger traffic at the international airport in Beijing, setting a new record of 95.8 million visitors last year.
Already the second-busiest air traffic hub in the world, with numbers growing steadily over the past five years, it is looking to close the gap between itself and the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport which currently holds the top spot. With experts forecasting China overtaking the United States as the market with the highest level of air travel in the next five to ten years. Beijing is investing in a new airport in the southern suburb worth US$12.9 billion.
Designed to cater to 100 million passengers annually, this airport along with those already established within the city would allow Beijing to accommodate the expected 170 million travellers annually by 2025. The new airport would serve as the Beijing hub for members of the SkyTeam alliance, the international airline group including China Southern Airlines Co. and China Eastern Airline Corp. These two state-owned Chinese airlines will gain coveted time slots to Europe and the US as they each take on 40 percent of the passengers travelling through the airport.
With this move, Beijing with be joining the elite group of large metropolitan cities that are served by two or three international airports to accommodate their levels of global travel. Other members of this group include London, New York, Tokyo and Paris. However, Beijing will be unique in having both airports fly full international routes as most cities designate one airport for full international or intercontinental travel while the other handles all domestic or regional flights.