Beijing Capital International Airport, (simplified Chinese: 北京首都国际机场; traditional Chinese: 北京首都國際機場; pinyin: Běijīng Shǒudū Guójì Jīchǎng) (IATA: PEK, ICAO: ZBAA) is the main international airport of Beijing, China. It is located 32 km (20 mi) northeast of Beijing's city center in an enclave of Chaoyang District that is surrounded by rural Shunyi District. The airport is owned and operated by the Beijing Capital International Airport Company Limited, a state-controlled company. The airport's IATA Airport Code, PEK, is based on the city's former romanized name, Peking.
Beijing Capital has rapidly ascended in rankings of the world's busiest airports in the past decade. It had become the busiest airport in Asia in terms of passenger traffic and total traffic movements by 2009. Beijing Capital International Airport is also the 3rd busiest airport in the world with 65,329,851 passengers passing through the airport in 2009. The airport registered 488,495 aircraft movements (take-offs and landings), which ranked 10th in the world, making Beijing Capital the only Asian airport in the Top 30. In terms of cargo traffic, Beijing airport has also witnessed rapid growth. By 2009, the airport had become the 14th busiest airport in the world by cargo traffic, registering 1,420,997 tonnes.
Beijing Capital International Airport is the main hub for Air China, the flag carrier of the People's Republic of China, which flies to around 120 destinations (excluding cargo) from Beijing. Hainan and China Southern Airlines also use the airport as their hub.
The Condé Nast Traveler magazine named the Beijing Capital International as the World's Best Airport in 2009, based on its multi-criteria satisfaction survey, including factors such as cleanness, speed of security/immigration clearance, clarity of signs, luggage handling, etc. It was the first time that Beijing Capital made to the top contenders list.
To accommodate the growing traffic volume, Beijing Capital added the enormous Terminal 3 in 2008, the second largest airport terminal in the world after Dubai International Airport's Terminal 3, and the third largest building in the world by area.
Beijing Airport was opened on March 2, 1958. The airport then consisted of one small terminal building, which still stands to this day, apparently for the use of VIPs and charter flights. On January 1, 1980, a newer, larger building - green in colour - opened, with docks for 10 to 12 aircraft. The terminal was larger than the one in the 1950s, but by the mid-1990s, it was too small. The terminal was then closed for renovation after the opening of Terminal 2.
In late 1999, to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, the airport was expanded again. This new terminal opened on November 1, and was named Terminal 2. September 20, 2004, saw the opening of a new Terminal 1 for a few airlines, including China Southern Airlines' domestic and international flights from Beijing. Other airlines' domestic and international flights still operate in Terminal 2.
A third runway of BCIA opened on October 29, 2007, to relieve congestion on the other two runways.
Another expansion, Terminal 3 (T3) was completed in February 2008, in time for the Beijing Olympics. This colossal expansion includes a third runway and another terminal for Beijing airport, and a rail link to the city-center. At its opening, It was the largest man made structure in the world in terms of area covered, and a major landmark in Beijing representing the growing and developing Chinese city. The expansion was largely funded by a 500-million-euro (USD 625 million) loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB). The loan is the largest ever granted by the EIB in Asia; the agreement was signed during the eighth China-EU Summit held in September 2005.
Fresh from hosting the 2008 Olympic Games and completion of its new terminal building, Beijing Capital has overtaken Tokyo Haneda to be the busiest airport in Asia based on scheduled seat capacity.
Terminal 1, with 60,000 square meters of space, was opened on January 1, 1980, and replaced the small existing terminal which was in operation since the 1950s. The terminal was closed for renovation from 1999 to September 20, 2004, during which all airlines operated from Terminal 2. Featuring 16 gates, it was the operational base for China Southern Airlines' domestic routes and a few other airlines such as Xiamen Airlines and Chongqing Airlines, and was originally planned to handle domestic traffic, excluding those to Hong Kong and Macau.
With the opening of Terminal 3, the terminal was closed for light refurbishment, and its airlines were moved to Terminal 2 on May 20, 2008. It reopened on June 27, 2008, and became the operational base for all domestic flights operated by the HNA Group, including those of Hainan Airlines, Grand China Air, Deer Air and Tianjin Airlines, while the international flights and the ones between Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Beijing of the HNA Group remained in Terminal 2.
Terminal 2 opened on November 1, 1999. This terminal was used to replace Terminal 1 while the latter was undergoing renovation, cramping all airlines into this terminal despite it being far bigger than Terminal 1 and can handle twenty airplanes at docks connecting directly to the terminal building. Prior to the opening of Terminal 3, all international flights (and the majority of the domestic flights) operated from this terminal. This terminal now houses China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Skyteam, and other domestic and international flights after Air China, Shanghai Airlines, Star Alliance members, Oneworld members moved operations to the new Terminal 3.
There is a passage linking the two terminals together; this is accessible at the public level (no passports needed).
Construction of Terminal 3 started on March 28, 2004, and was opened in two stages. Trial operations commenced on February 29, 2008, when seven airlines, namely British Airways, El Al Israel Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Shandong Airlines and Sichuan Airlines moved into the terminal. 20 other airlines moved into the terminal when it became fully operational on March 26, 2008. Currently, it mainly houses Air China, Oneworld, Star Alliance, and other domestic and international flights.
It was designed by a consortium of NACO (Netherlands Airport Consultants B.V), UK Architect Foster and Partners and ARUP. Lighting was designed by UK lighting architects Speirs and Major Associates. The budget of the expansion is US$3.5 billion. Far grander in size and scale than the existing terminals, it was the largest airport terminal-building complex built in a single phase with 986,000 square meters in total floor area at its opening. It features a main passenger terminal (Terminal 3C), two satellite concourses (Terminal 3D and Terminal 3E) and five floors above ground and two underground, with the letters "A and B" omitted to avoid confusions with the existing Terminals 1 and 2. Terminal 3C is dedicated for domestic flights, Terminal 3E for international flights, and Terminal 3D, called the "Olympics Hall", was used for charter flights during the Beijing Olympics, and will be used by international flights.
Terminal 3 is larger than London Heathrow Airport's 5 terminals combined with another 17% to spare.
Terminal 3 of the BCIA is currently the second largest airport passenger terminal building of the world. Its title as the world's largest was surrendered to Dubai International Airport's Terminal 3 (over 1,500,000 m²) on October 14, 2008.
System, Security and Luggage
A 300,000-square-meter transportation centre is located at the front of T3. 7,000 car-parking spaces will be available if the two-level underground parking lot is fully employed. The transportation centre will have three lanes for different types of vehicles, airport buses, taxis and private vehicles, which will enable a smooth flow of passengers. People bound for T3 will exit their vehicles here and enter T3 via an aisle within five minutes. The transportation centre will also have a light-rail station on a line that begins at the Dongzhimen stop on the Beijing Subway in Central Beijing. Travel time from Dongzhimen to T3 will be about 18 minutes.
There are electrical outlets on either end of every row of seats in the terminal. There are 243 elevators, escalators or moving walkways; and every restroom is accompanied by a mothers’ room where diapers can be changed. There is also a room for travelers with disabilities.
One of Terminal 3's highlights is the US$240 million luggage-transfer system. The luggage system is equipped with yellow carts, each of which has a code, matching the bar code on every piece of luggage loaded on it, allowing easy and accurate tracking. More than 200 cameras will be used to monitor activities in the luggage area.
The luggage system can handle 19,200 pieces of luggage per hour. After luggage is checked in at any one of the 292 counters at Terminal 3C, they can be transferred at a speed of ten metres per second. Even for international routes, luggage can travel from T3C to T3E in five minutes. Arriving passengers should be able to begin retrieving their luggage within 4.5 minutes after airplanes are unloaded.
Along with X-ray scanners, additional equipment conducts checks such as for explosives. Passengers will be able to check in their luggage at the airport several hours or even a day before their flight. The airport will store them in its luggage system and then load them on the correct aircraft.
A 98.3-meter monitoring tower stands at the southern end of T3, the highest building at the airport. The roof of T3 is red, the Chinese color for good luck. The terminal’s ceilings use white strips for decoration and to indicate directions. Under the white strips, the basic color of the ceiling is orange with light to dark tones indicating where a passenger is inside the building. It is light orange in the center and deepens as it extends to the sides in T3E and is the other way around in T3C.
The roof of T3 has dozens of windows to let in daylight. Light angles can be adjusted to ensure adequate interior lighting. However, interior lighting in itself is sufficient for comfortable reading. Many traditional Chinese elements will be employed in the terminal’s interior decoration, including a “Menhai,” a big copper vat used to store water for fighting fires in the Forbidden City, and the carvings imitating the famous Nine-Dragon Wall (Jiulongbi).
An indoor garden is constructed in the T3E waiting area, in the style of imperial gardens such as the Summer Palace. In T3C, a tunnel landscape of an underground garden has been finished with plants on each side so that passengers can appreciate them inside the mini-train.
The T3 food-service area is called a “global kitchen,” where 72 stores will provide food ranging from formal dishes to fast food, from Chinese to western, from bakery goods to ice cream. Airport officials have promised that people who buy products at the airport will see the same prices as in Central Beijing.
In addition to food and beverage businesses, there will be a 12,600-square-meter domestic retail area, a 10,600-square-meter duty-free-store area and a nearly 7,000-square-meter convenience-service area, which includes banks, business centres, Internet services and more. At 45,200 square meters, the commercial area will be twice the size of Beijing’s Lufthansa Shopping Centres.
To get from Terminal 3C to 3E (3D is not yet in use), both domestic and international travelers must obtain boarding passes at T3C. International passengers have to board from T3E. The two-kilometer trip between the two buildings is shortened to two minutes by an intra-terminal train.
To help passengers go to the right terminal, the airport provides free inter-terminal shuttles between T3 and Terminals 1 and 2 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The buses set out every ten minutes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and every 20 minutes during other times.
It provides 66 aerobridges or jetways, further complemented with remote parking bays which bring the total of gates to 120 for the terminal alone. Terminal 3 also comes with an additional runway. It increases BCIA's total capacity by 43 million passengers per year to a total of approximately 78 million.
The terminal has gates and a nearby runway that can handle the Airbus A380. Proven when Singapore Airlines briefly offered A380 flights to Beijing in August 2008 during the Summer Olympics. Emirates airline has started its scheduled daily operation to Dubai as of 1st August 2010. Several other airlines will in the near future operate the A380 out of this terminal as well, including Air France, Lufthansa and China Southern Airlines.
Terminals, airlines and destinations
The airport has three terminals. Terminal 1 is currently housing Hainan Airlines and its subsidiaries (while the international routes; Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau flights operate from Terminal 2), Terminal 2 serves China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, SkyTeam members and other domestic and international flights. Terminal 3, the newest terminal at Beijing Airport, serves Air China, Star Alliance and Oneworld members, and some other domestic and international flights which do not operate from Terminals 1 and 2.
Beijing Capital International Airport is served by the Airport Express Line of the Beijing Subway. The 28.1 km line runs from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2 and then to the city with stops at Sanyuanqiao and Dongzhimen. It was opened on July 19, 2008, in time for the 2008 Olympics. A one-way trip takes approximately 16–20 minutes.
The airport offers six different shuttle bus routes to and from various points in Beijing, including Xidan, Fangzhuang, the Beijing Railway Station, Zhongguancun and the Nanyuan Airport. For route map and schedules, see . In addition, the airport also offers bus service to and from Tianjin and Qinhuangdao.
Taxi service from the airport to Beijing is available.
The airport is accessible by four express tollways. Two of these run directly from northeastern Beijing to the airport. The other two connect to the airport from nearby highways. .
In addition to the expressways, there is a tree-lined, two-lane road that runs just south of the Airport Expressway. This Old Airport Road was the primary access route to the airport prior to the expressway's opening and remains the only untolled road to the airport.
The airport's parking garage offers 24-hour parking service.
Currently, the airport's capacity is 78 million passengers per year. This was based on projections for 60 million passengers and 1.8 million tons of cargo annually by 2015. The airport actually handled 65.3 million passengers in 2009, 6 years sooner than expected. By 2012, the airport is projected to handle 90 million passengers. A second airport for Beijing is therefore planned. Work should begin in 2010, with an estimated completion date of 2015.
The new airport will be located about 40 kilometers south of downtown Beijing, in Daxing District.
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