President Xi Jinping on Wednesday inaugurated a second international airport for the Chinese capital with the world’s biggest terminal ahead of celebrations of the Communist Party’s 70th anniversary in power.
Beijing Daxing International Airport is designed to handle 72 million passengers a year. Located on the capital’s south side, it was built in less than five years at a cost of 120 billion yuan ($17 billion).
The airline’s first commercial flight, a China Southern Airlines plane bound for the southern province of Guangdong, took off Wednesday afternoon, state broadcaster CCTV reported. Six more flights took off later for Shanghai and other destinations.
The main Beijing airport, located in the city’s northeast, is the world’s second-busiest after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and is nearing capacity.
Daxing, designed by the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, includes a terminal billed as the world’s biggest at 1 million square meters (11 million square feet).
Despite that, its builders say travelers will need to walk no more than 600 meters (2,000 feet) to reach any boarding gate.
The vast, star-shaped airport is about 45 kilometers (30 miles) south of downtown Beijing. It has four runways, with plans for as many as three more.
Carriers including British Airways and state-owned China Southern, the country’s biggest airline by passengers, plan to move to Daxing from Beijing Capital International Airport.
The capital has a third airport, Nanyuan, for domestic flights, but the government says that will close once Daxing is in operation.