It is all systems go for the new Terminal 3 at the Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA). Called the "Gateway Project," Terminal 3 passed its final tests on November 6 and will begin operations as of February 2008.
With a total floor area of 902,000 square meters, the terminal will be able to handle 60 million passengers every year, surpassing the total handling capacity of the two terminals now in use
A week before the final checkup, the third runway of BCIA passed tests administered by the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) and has been deemed operable. With a length of 3.8 km, the new runway can handle arrivals and departures of large aircraft such as the Airbus 380. The instrument landing system can guide aircraft to land safely under poor visibility. BCIA is also the first Asian airport with three runways in use simultaneously.
The completion of Terminal 3 and operation of the third runway signal that major projects for the extension of the BCIA are complete. The finalization of the project helps alleviate, to some extent, the transportation bottleneck to the capital city.
50 years of service
Opened in March 1958, BCIA was the initial commercial airport in China and at first it only had a small terminal building. On January 1, 1980, Terminal 1, with an area of 60,000 square meters, as well as the tarmac and parking area, were completed. As the passenger flow increased, Terminal 1 became filled to capacity. The more advanced, 336,000-square-meter Terminal 2, went under construction in October 1995 and was dedicated on November 1, 1999. The opening of Terminal 2 meant the closing of the outdated Terminal 1. However, as passenger flow continued to increase, Terminal 1 was put into operation again on September 20, 2004 after complete renovation.
In recent years, the business volume of BCIA has been rapidly growing and Terminals 1 and 2 have been filled to capacity. The newest extension of BCIA broke ground in March 2004.
During the period of expansion, the business volume of BCIA continued its fast growth. According to statistics released by Beijing Capital International Airport Co. Ltd., in 2006, the annual passenger handling capacity of BCIA reached 48.65 million, over 376,600 flights arrived at or departed from the airport, and its cargo and parcel handling capacity was 1.02 million tons, up 124 percent, 101 percent and 85 percent, respectively, compared with 2000.
Between 2000 and 2006, BCIA was ranked from 93 to 28 among all airports in the world in terms of flight volume, from 31 to 21 in terms of cargo and parcel handling capacity, from 42 to nine in terms of passenger handling capacity. It is the first airport in the Asia-Pacific region that ranks among the top 30 in all the three major categories.
In the first half of 2007, BCIA became the eighth largest passenger handler in the world, said Beijing Capital International Airport Co. Ltd.
The automatic pedestrian walkways, baggage handling system and information processing system at BCIA's Terminal 3 all use internationally advanced technologies and equipment.
According to Dong Zhiyi, General Manager of Beijing Capital International Airport Co. Ltd., Terminal 3 will adopt an automatic baggage handing system for the first time. This system will be able to handle 8,000 pieces of departure baggage and 6,500 pieces of arrival baggage per hour at peak times, securing the accuracy and speed of baggage handing. The system includes radio frequency identification equipment so that baggage can be monitored when being transferred. The system also has five-grade security check equipment to find even the most concealed contraband goods.
Wireless Internet access will be available throughout Terminal 3 so that passengers can enjoy Internet surfing anytime and anywhere and also give airlines the ability to increase mobile check-in service at peak times. At the same time, restaurants and vendors can adopt wireless ordering and wireless sales services. At present, wireless Internet access is only available in the business centers of Terminals 1 and 2.
In order to reduce the walking distance for passengers, Terminal 3 provides 51 elevators and 63 escalators. It takes passengers less than five minutes to walk from the entrance to Terminal 3 to the furthest boarding gate.
The 2008 Olympic Games also bring challenges to BCIA. At present, there are an average of 1,100 flights arriving at or departing from BCIA every day. It is estimated that during the 2008 Olympic Games, the number will increase to 1,500-1,600. At peak times, 1,900 flights may arrive at or depart from BCIA every day.
Terminals 3 and 2 will be the major air passenger facilities serving the Olympic Games. According to Dong, Terminal 3 will receive charter flights for the Olympic Games as well as Olympic delegations taking regular international flights. Preliminary estimates show that it will take 40 minutes to receive a charter flight for the Olympic Games, 80 minutes to receive a charter flight for the Paralympic Games, 70 minutes to receive an Olympic delegation taking a regular international flight and 130 minutes to receive a Paralympic delegation taking a regular international flight. Terminal 2 will mainly receive ordinary international flights, with 55 minutes needed to receive a flight at this location.
"The time of stay for Olympic visitors at the airport will be shorter than during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and 2004 Athens Olympic Games," Dong said.
No longer far away
In June 2008, the light rail line linking BCIA and Dongzhimen in downtown Beijing will be put into operation. It will only take 16 minutes for passengers to travel from Dongzhimen to the airport via the light rail line, much faster than taking an airport shuttle bus.
According to Dong, an urban terminal will be set up at Dongzhimen, providing check-in and luggage checking services, which will greatly facilitate passengers' travels.
With a total length of 28.1 km, the light rail line to the airport has four stations. It connects to subway Line 2 and Line 13 at the Dongzhimen station. After arriving at the airport, passengers can reach the terminals via escalators.
The light rail line to the airport will provide aviation-like service and each train will carry up to 4,500 passengers per hour. The interval between trains will be five minutes at the early stage and will be shortened to four minutes in the future.
"It will be more convenient to go from the urban district of Beijing to the airport," Dong said.