Saturday, March 1, 2008

Beijing opens world's largest airport terminal

Beijing has opened the world's largest airport terminal to meet the passenger surge during the Olympics in August.

Forty-two flights arrived or departed from the terminal on its first day on Friday, said Dong Zhiyi, general manager of the Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA).

With a floor space of 986,000 square meters, more than double the total area of the first two terminals, the new building could be the largest of its kind in the world, said construction manager Fan Jun.

The dragon-shaped building, built at a cost of $3.8 billion, was designed by British architect Lord Foster and construction started March 28, 2004.

It will give the airport a handling capacity of 76 million passengers a year, more than double the previous 36 million. Last year, 53.47 million passengers passed through the airport, putting it among the world's 10 busiest.

The airport is expected to receive about 5.56 million people during the Olympics in August.

It has almost doubled the number of BCIA taxiways from 71 to 137 and number of aircraft stands from 164 to 314. It can also receive the new Airbus A-380, the world's largest passenger aircraft.

Three highway roads are also under construction to connect the new terminal to the existing traffic system.

The new terminal will be used by six airlines initially, Sichuan Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Qatar Airlines, Qantas Airways, British Airways and El Al Israel Airlines. A further 21 airlines will start using it March 29.

China is also upgrading several standby airports near Beijing for the Olympics by renovating terminals, enlarging tarmacs, lengthening runways and improving services.

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