Beijing held the official grand opening of the highly anticipated Daxing International Airport on Wednesday, marking a significant milestone for the country as it moves towards becoming the world's biggest air travel market by 2022.
The morning ceremony, presided over by Chinese President Xi Jinping, included the certification of the airport’s operation license, followed by an afternoon of first flights conducted by China's big three airlines. According to Chinese media outlets, first honors went to China Southern, which departed Daxing for Guangzhou at 4:22 pm local time using an Airbus A380. A China Eastern A350-900 flight bound for Shanghai departed shortly thereafter followed by an Air China Boeing 747-8 flight to Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport.
Opening day also saw several Chinese airlines participate in first flights, including Xiamen Airlines, Beijing Capital Airlines, China United Airlines, and Hebei Airlines, operating a Boeing 787-9, Airbus A330, and a Boeing 737, respectively. Meanwhile, Daxing welcomed its first passengers from three Chinese carriers—China United Airlines, Capital Airlines, and Hebei Airlines.
With the launch of Daxing, Beijing Nanyuan—the city’s oldest airport—will soon cease public operations. Built in 1910, Nanyuan is a military-public airport that serves as a secondary gateway and the main hub of China United Airlines. Last week saw the carrier’s first aircraft, a Boeing 737-800 ferried to Daxing followed by an additional five B737 aircraft. China United will fly 80 routes from its new hub; its parent airline, China Eastern, will operate a dual-hub strategy from Guangzhou and Daxing with plans to launch 22 domestic and international flights from Beijing’s new mega-airport, starting late October.
Daxing will also serve as a second hub for state-owned China Eastern, which has largely operated from its respective base in Shanghai. Meanwhile, Air China will gain a small foothold at Daxing as it looks to add new routes and increase the frequency of flights across its network. An additional five domestic airlines and eight foreign airlines will start operating over winter or spring of next year.
Billed as the world’s largest airport upon completion, Daxing broke ground in 2014. Plans call for it to accept traffic overflow from Beijing’s existing Capital International Airport, which now operates well beyond its planned capacity. Last year Capital International handled more than 100 million passengers, maintaining its title as the world’s second busiest airport after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. Officials expect Daxing’s mega-hub to reduce passenger traffic at its sister airport to 82 million annually.