China opens new US$11 billion mega-airport in Chengdu, Sichuan

At 11.10 a.m. local time on Sunday, June 27, a Sichuan Airlines jet took off from Chengdu Tianfu International Airport bound for Beijing. This inaugural flight marked the opening of the first phase of a current five-year-long project to build Chengdu’s second international airport, making the city China’s third to operate two international airports. This phase of the project comprises three runways and two terminals costing approximately 70 billion Chinese yuan (US$10.8 billion), which cover approximately 710,000 square meters, and which are capable of handling up to 60 million passengers per annum.

When completed, the airport will have terminals covering 1.4 million square meters and will be capable of handling up to 120 million passengers per annum. Today, the new airport will only be catering for the domestic market as China remains closed to most international travellers. According to the latest International Air Transport Association (IATA) data, China’s domestic traffic was up 6.8% in April 2021, compared to April 2019. “The new airport in Chengdu was needed to accommodate continued rapid growth,” said aviation analyst Brendan Sobie. “China’s domestic market has already fully recovered from the pandemic and will continue to grow rapidly. Given the size of the city and its central location in China, Chengdu is very well-positioned to benefit.”

Chengdu Tianfu International Airport was designed by a consortium made up of the China Southwest Architectural Design and Research Institute, China Airport Construction Group Corporation and French architectural firm ADP Ingenierie. The new airport is located some 50km to the south-west of the city and by 2023 a metro line will be completed whereby passengers will be able to make the journey from the city to the airport in 37 to 44 minutes, traveling at speeds of up to 140kph. The airport is also part of a major aviation-based infrastructure plan, with China aiming to have 400 airports in use by 2035, a major increase from the current 241, according to the Transportation Network Planning Outline issued by the government in early 2021.

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