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Beijing Airport Terminal 3

Beijing Travel Essentials: Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3

Beijing International Airport 北京首都国际机场

Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3.

Terminal 3 at Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) opened this week, six months before the start of the 2008 Olympic Games. The addition of Terminal 3, the world's largest airport building, plus a third runway, will provide what is already China's busiest airport with the extra capacity to support the Games, and allow it to service up to 90 million passengers annually by 2012.

The iconic terminal building, designed by Sir Norman Foster and built by UK company Arup, is intended to be one of the most modern and passenger friendly super-hub facilities in the world, with clear and intuitive layouts, minimal changes of level, and fast transfer times. It has taken just under four years from the start of construction work on the building to this week's opening.

Built in double-quick time (no surprise there), Sir Norman's brainchild is a testament to cheap labor. A snip at RMB 21 billion (just under US$3 billion), the 245-acre construction will catapult Beijing airport from ninth to third-busiest air hub in the world in its first year.

Terminal 3 will also be one of the world's more environmentally sustainable airport buildings, and has been designed to accommodate Beijing's cold winters, hot summers, short autumn and spring seasons. The terminal roof incorporates south-east orientated skylights which enable the sun to warm the building on winter mornings, and make the most of available daylight during normal operational times. This gives dramatic reductions in the amount of energy needed for both heating and cooling.

"As well as being another new design icon for the city of Beijing, along with the National Stadium, the National Aquatics Centre and the CCTV Headquarters, this new terminal will set global standards for sustainability, operational efficiency and positive passenger experience," says Michael Kwok, Arup's Project Director for Terminal 3.

Beijing Capital International Airport Check-in Counter.

Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3. Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3.

Although the shimmering edifice of glass, steel and aluminium is decidedly high-tech, there are obvious nods to China's vaunted cultural heritage. Airport authorities asked Sir Norman to incorporate the bright tones of the Forbidden City in his design, and these are evident in the tapering red pillars and golden roof evoking a dragon's back. Altogether the three buildings of terminal 3 house 445 lifts, 1,800 miles of cables and a car park for 7,000 vehicles.

The increased capacity of Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA), coupled with the continued growth in passenger numbers (brought about by the Olympics and China's continued growth on the global market), will bring BCIA into the top five airports globally for total passenger numbers, along side the likes of London Heathrow UK (Europe's busiest airport), Atlanta Georgia USA (the world's busiest airport), Chicago O'Hare USA, and Tokyo Haneda Japan (Asia's busiest airport).

Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3. Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3.

Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3. Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3.

The transfer of flights to the new terminal will take place in two stages. British Airways, El Al Israel Airlines, Qatar Airways, Qantas Airways, Shandong Airlines and Sichuan Airlines will move in right away followed on March 26 by Air Canada, Air China, Dragonair, Emirates, Lufthansa, Shanghai Airlines and Singapore Airlines.

March 26 is also the date when Terminal 3 starts to handle all domestic flights between Beijing and Shanghai Hongqiao Airport. After this date Terminals 1 and 2 will only be used for domestic flights by Hainan Airlines (Terminal 1) or China Eastern and China Southern Airlines (Terminal 2).

Currently under construction and due to open before the Games is an express line specifically designed for fliers traveling to and from downtown Beijing. The airport line will have interchange stations with subway lines 2, 10 and 13, and at speeds of 100 km/h, the driverless trains will only take 15 minutes to reach the other end of the line at Dongzhimen from the airport. The line will have two trains one servicing Terminal 2, and one Terminal 3.

China's Aviation Industry

China's air industry is rapidly expanding - government officials said last month that 97 more airports will be built across the country by 2020, bringing the total number to 239. Of these, 13 are projected to handle 30 million passengers a year - about the same number as London Gatwick.

Terminal 3 Flight Information

Beijing Terminal 3 designed by Sir Norman Foster. Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3.

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