China is the world’s most dynamic airline environment at the moment. The country’s rapid growing population and expanding economy will make it the largest aviation market is years time. In order to address the booming demand for air travel, the country has been aggressively expanding and opening new airport facilities. Nothing seems to be a bigger deal in China’s air infrastructure than the new Beijing airport. The airport will be named Beijing Daxing International Airport, and will likely be the busiest in China.


Airport Design

The airport designs have been out for a while. The best way to describe the overall design is as a 6 pointed flower, with one of the points being a car park. The airport is currently under construction, but the terminal is expected to be finished by July 2019, assuming no further construction delays. The design is meant to ease walking distances between gates and security checkpoints. It was designed by Zaha Hadid’s architecture firm. In its initial opening, it will serve 72 million passengers, with an expansion of up to 100 million. This would make it the second busiest airport in the world after Atlanta airport.

Rendering of Airport by Zaha Hadid Architects

Rendering of Airport by Zaha Hadid Architects

Who Will Be at Daxing?

Chinese aviation authorities have planned that Skyteam Airlines, as well as China Southern, move to Daxing. The original plan was to have SkyTeam and some non-aligned carriers at Daxing, but this all changed when China Southern left SkyTeam and partnered up with American Airlines. Currently, SkyTeam airlines, such as China Eastern and Xiamen, will move to Daxing. Their international partners will likely join as well.

China Southern will be the largest carrier in the airport, and American will relocate to Daxing as well. OneWorld airlines have since announced they intend to relocate to Daxing, including Cathay Pacific. Cathay was always in a difficult situation, since cooperation with OneWorld is key to the alliance, but the airline has strong ties to Air China, one of its equity partners. I suspect that Cathay, in order to keep everyone happy, will keep Cathay Dragon at Beijing Capital, and move Mainline Cathay operations to Daxing. This could make Daxing a major OneWorld hub, if China Southern does decide to join the alliance.

Other airlines that have planned to move are smaller carriers, such as Hebei Airlines and (oddly enough) Beijing Capital Airlines. Air China also intends to start a small carrier to operate on its behalf at the airport. I would not be surprised to see that the major Chinese carriers continue to fly to/from Beijing Capital from/to their other hubs in a much reduced capacity. I also suspect most major international airlines, such as Emirates and EL AL, to move to Daxing.


Who Stays at Beijing Capital?

The initial plan by Chinese aviation authorities was to make Beijing Capital a Star Alliance bastion. Air China, which has its largest hub at PEK, will remain there, and with it all other Star Alliance airlines. Hainan Airlines, and most of its partners, will also stay at Capital Airport. The big question here is that Beijing Capital Airlines, a subsidiary of HNA Group (Hainan’s parent company) is moving to Daxing. It will be interesting to see if Chinese and foreign LCCs move to Daxing or stay at Capital.

Beijing Daxing Terminal

Beijing Daxing Terminal


There are a number of implications surrounding the opening of Daxing airport. Namely, congestion at Capital will cease to exist, and the airport will be able to close one of its older terminals (Terminal 1 or 2). The airport will provide a seamless connecting point for SkyTeam and OneWorld carriers. However, the most interesting and potentially disruptive implication is that China may lift (only out of Beijing) the “one route, one Chinese carrier” policy. The argument I would make is that Daxing is ~technically~ a different airport, and far enough from Capital to allow for a new route to flourish. This would mean a rush of Chinese airlines to get flights to places like San Francisco, London, Sydney, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Frankfurt, etc. The could push smaller carriers that offer niche routes out of their flights. This would be a massive headache for Hainan Airlines, who is already struggling financially, to sustain its very thin and unconventional routes out of Beijing.


Landing Thoughts

I am a fan of almost any airport construction. I cannot wait to have a new excuse to go to Beijing and see the majestic new terminal. I suspect that there will be construction delays, but the airport will open before 2020. Looking forward, I don’t know when will OneWorld airlines move in, nor do I know when will all of SkyTeam move in. It will be an interesting time to watch the Chinese aviation industry. Hopefully, the airport provides for new carriers flying on routes, and therefore reducing even more prices to China.

What do you think? Are you excited to visit the new airport? Do you expect that more airlines will launch flights once the airport is open? Let us know!


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