Beijing Capital International Airport (IATA: PEK, ICAO: ZBAA) is the main international airport serving Beijing. It is located 32 km (20 mi) northeast of Beijing’s city center, in an enclave of Chaoyang District and the surroundings of that enclave in suburban 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. It was the word’s second busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic from 2010-2013 and as of March 1 2014 it was the busiest airport in the world in 2014. The airport registered 557,167 aircraft movements (take-offs and landings), which ranked 6th in the world in 2012. In terms of cargo traffic, Beijing airport has also witnessed rapid growth. By 2012, the airport had become the 13th busiest airport in the world by cargo traffic, registering 1,787,027 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.
To accommodate the growing traffic volume, Beijing Capital added the enormous Terminal 3 in 2008 in time for the Olympic Games, the second largest airport terminal in the world after Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 3, and the sixth largest building in the world by area. Beijing Capital International Airport covers 1,480 hectares (3,700 acres) of land.
Beijing Airport was opened on 2 March 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 1 January 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 1 November, and was named Terminal 2. 20 September 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 29 October 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 30 billion yen loan from Japan and 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.
Due to limited capacity at Beijing Capital International Airport, a new airport in Daxing is being planned which BCIA will be only served its domestic flights. The project was given final approval on 13 January 2013. Construction is expected to begin in 2014 and be completed in 2018. The airport will have six runways for civil use and one for military use. It is not yet clear how flights will be divided between the two airports but one plan is that all airlines of the SkyTeam airline alliance is to move to the new airport.
Terminal 1, with 60,000 m2 (650,000 sq ft) of space, opened on 1 January 1980, and replaced the smaller existing terminal which was in operation since 1958. Terminal 1 was closed for renovation from 1999 to 20 September 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 20 May 2008. Terminal 1 reopened for a second time on 27 June 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 remaining in Terminal 2.
Terminal 2 opened on 1 November 1999, with a floor area of 336,000 m2 (3,620,000 sq ft). 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 it can handle twenty aircraft 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, Air Koryo, and other domestic and international flights after Air China, Shanghai Airlines, Star Alliance members, Oneworld members moved operations to the new Terminal 3. A gate capable of handling the A380 (gate 21) was also built at the terminal.
Terminals 1 and 2 are linked by a public walkway that takes about 10–15 minutes to traverse. Shuttle buses connect all three terminals.
Construction of Terminal 3 started on 28 March 2004, and the terminal opened in two stages. Trial operations commenced on 29 February 2008, when seven airlines, including British Airways, El Al Israel Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Shandong Airlines and Sichuan Airlines moved into the terminal. Twenty other airlines followed when the terminal became fully operational on 26 March 2008. Currently, it mainly houses Air China, Oneworld, Star Alliance, and other domestic and international flights. Star Alliance members LOT Polish Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, United Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Thai Airways International, Singapore Airlines, and Air China use Terminal 3-E as part of the Move Under One Roof program to co-locate alliance members.
Terminal 3 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 preexisting terminals, Terminal 3 was the largest airport terminal-building complex in the world to be built in a single phase with 986,000 m2 (10,610,000 sq ft) 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. Only two concourses were initially opened, namely Terminal 3C dedicated for domestic flights as well as Terminal 3E for international flights. Terminal 3D officially opened on 18 April 2013. The newly opened concourse is temporarily used solely by Air China for some of its domestic flights.
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 on 14 October 2008 to Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 3 which has 1,713,000 m2 (18,440,000 sq ft) of floor space.
On 20 July 2013, a man in a wheelchair detonated small homemade explosives which exploded on Terminal 3 in the Beijing International Airport. The bomber, reported to be Ji Zhongxing, was injured and taken to a hospital for his injuries. No other people were hurt.