Beijing's Daxing International Airport now officially open

CNN's David Culver tours the new starfish-shaped Daxing airport, boasting customer service robots and a terminal the size of 97 soccer fields.

Posted: Sep 25, 2019 11:00 PM
Updated: Sep 25, 2019 11:00 PM

Beijing's massive new Daxing International Airport is officially open for business -- just in time for celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China on October 1.

On Wednesday morning, press, dignitaries and airline representatives waited in place for more than four hours for the arrival of President Xi Jinping, who entered the main concourse of the glistening gold and glass mega terminal just before noon, where he was greeted by airport officials.

Xi sat through a brief highlight reel of the airport's design and construction followed by speeches filled with praise for the president. The Chinese leader was the last to speak, offering a brief, formal baptism.

"I declare Beijing Daxing International Airport open," he said.

Later that day, the crowd watched as the airport's maiden flight took off from one of the airport's four runways -- an honor that fell to Daxing's main tenant, China Southern, which deployed an Airbus A380, the world's biggest airliner.

Flights from other airlines due to move to the airport, with a three-letter code PKX, were also scheduled for later in the day. Initially, the only flights making use of the airport are domestic. Customs and immigration are not yet operational, their booths currently empty and free of computer screens.

Flights from Daxing will cover 112 destinations around the globe by next spring.

An airport built for the future

Daxing's official opening caps a long design and building process. Construction for the $11.5 billion project began in 2014, with more than 40,000 workers on site at its peak.

Designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid and her Chinese partners, the airport is built for the future, boasting a terminal the size of 97 soccer pitches -- as well as customer-service robots that provide travelers with flight updates and airport information.

Nicknamed "starfish" by Chinese media for its shape of five concourses connected to a main hall, Daxing aims to reduce walking for passengers, long a complaint about many new mega-hubs.

The airport authority has promised a distance of no more than 600 meters (650 yards) -- about eight minutes of walking -- between security checkpoints and the remotest gates.

The sleek, modern interior design is striking, thanks in part to the 8,000 distinct rooftop windows that allow in the sun's rays. Many high-end stores and restaurants sit ready to serve passengers; it's high-tech, high-end mall meets air travel.

As part of the opening ceremony, journalists were given a tour of some of the facilities including a massive "China Garden" in the international concourse, a serene tradition-inspired courtyard based around a pond of koi carp.

Security and measures were also on display. Travelers will be scanned on cameras using facial recognition. Counters will be fully automated to capture face photos and relay them each part of the journey through the airport, including security and the departure gate.

World's fastest growing air travel market

The greatly anticipated airport ushers in a new era for air travel to and from the Chinese capital, which has been in desperate need of a second global gateway.

The existing Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) is the world's second-busiest aviation hub and hitting full capacity, making it nearly impossible for airlines to add flights at desirable times.

In 2018, more than 100 million travelers passed through its three terminals -- making it only the second airport in the world to cross that passenger traffic milestone, after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta.

China is projected to overtake the United States as the world's biggest air travel market by 2022.

The "modest" initial operational target at Daxing is to accommodate 72 million passengers and 2 million tons of cargo annually by 2025.

The ambitious master plan calls for the building of a total of seven runways, and moving at least 100 million passengers and 4 million tons of cargo a year through the airport.

Daxing's location, however, is cause for concern. It's in the far south of Beijing, a city notorious for traffic jams.

The new airport is some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Tiananmen Square in the city center -- and even farther away from the main business districts in the east and north.

Brushing aside such worries, officials say they have built more than just an airport -- but rather a truly integrated transportation hub that will eventually see high-speed rail, inter-city services and downtown-to-airport express trains all stopping right beneath the terminal.

The airport express trains, traveling at a top speed of 160 kilometers an hour (100 mph), promise to whisk arriving passengers to the city in less than 20 minutes.

Yet others say a new mammoth aviation hub will only worsen flight delays in Beijing, already ranked near the bottom of on-time performance lists among airports worldwide.

There is no indication that the Chinese military, which controls most of the country's airspace, will loosen its grip to give airliners more maneuver room.

But aviation officials and airline executives predict reduced delays at Daxing thanks to its multi-directional runway design that improves operational efficiency in the air, as well as its location south of Beijing -- eliminating many flight detours aimed at avoiding the city's large "no-fly" zone.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 750432

Reported Deaths: 13764
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1031991782
Lake556411007
Allen41662691
St. Joseph36974564
Hamilton36561417
Elkhart29390459
Tippecanoe22886225
Vanderburgh22549400
Porter19348325
Johnson18432388
Hendricks17608317
Clark13206193
Madison13139344
Vigo12608253
LaPorte12415221
Monroe12188175
Delaware10954198
Howard10285225
Kosciusko9619119
Hancock8562145
Bartholomew8164157
Warrick7856156
Floyd7781180
Grant7232179
Wayne7160201
Boone6939103
Morgan6746141
Dubois6214118
Marshall6208116
Cass6000109
Dearborn589578
Henry5895109
Noble580787
Jackson508975
Shelby500896
Lawrence4738122
Gibson444593
Clinton441455
Harrison441073
DeKalb439485
Montgomery436390
Whitley406343
Huntington402481
Steuben399759
Miami393169
Jasper387454
Knox375890
Putnam372160
Wabash360683
Ripley346970
Adams345355
Jefferson335785
White331553
Daviess3033100
Wells295181
Decatur289992
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273072
Scott270156
Clay266448
Washington245234
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234431
Starke227958
Fountain220348
Sullivan214343
Owen211658
Fulton202142
Jay200932
Carroll193420
Orange188155
Perry187137
Rush175826
Vermillion174644
Franklin170335
Tipton166146
Parke149316
Pike138234
Blackford136232
Pulaski120547
Newton113736
Brown104043
Crawford102316
Benton101414
Martin91615
Warren83815
Switzerland8118
Union72810
Ohio57811
Unassigned0420

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1108146

Reported Deaths: 20122
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1286421460
Cuyahoga1157382208
Hamilton813551248
Montgomery525311041
Summit48395999
Lucas43343818
Butler38951604
Stark33318929
Lorain25658504
Warren24580303
Mahoning22355603
Lake21166387
Clermont20111253
Delaware18841135
Licking16660222
Fairfield16570204
Trumbull16537482
Medina15603271
Greene15272247
Clark14233306
Wood13287198
Portage13242214
Allen11910239
Richland11601211
Miami10843224
Wayne9130222
Columbiana9029230
Muskingum8906135
Pickaway8658122
Tuscarawas8643248
Marion8641138
Erie8056164
Ashtabula7147179
Hancock6996132
Ross6943161
Geauga6834150
Scioto6534105
Belmont6155174
Union584549
Lawrence5726102
Jefferson5675158
Huron5544122
Sandusky5439125
Darke5415129
Seneca5347126
Washington5318109
Athens523660
Auglaize501887
Mercer487385
Shelby476595
Knox4570112
Madison444065
Ashland435597
Putnam4336103
Defiance432298
Fulton432072
Crawford4036110
Brown402461
Logan387577
Preble3848104
Clinton379166
Ottawa373581
Highland359665
Williams348078
Champaign344258
Guernsey324853
Jackson318154
Perry297350
Morrow291840
Fayette285450
Hardin274965
Henry273367
Holmes2699101
Coshocton268960
Van Wert247264
Adams243156
Pike242835
Gallia240750
Wyandot234556
Hocking220162
Carroll197148
Paulding176542
Meigs148240
Monroe136344
Noble136039
Harrison114138
Morgan109624
Vinton85517
Unassigned03
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
83° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 89°
Angola
Clear
° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: °
Huntington
Cloudy
85° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 91°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
83° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 89°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
80° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 84°
Showers and storms are possible Saturday morning, but the chance of rain will stick around all day long.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events