Chinese authorities have announced the construction of a third airport in Beijing amid concerns that the current main airport -- the world's second busiest -- is overcrowded and about to exceed its capacity.
"It is now impossible to add even one more flight to the tight daily schedule of the capital airport," said Li Jiaxiang, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China. The new airport is to be completed in 2015.
The new airport is expected to handle 60 million passengers a year. With 74 million passengers passing through the current main Beijing airport in 2010, that will bring Beijing's total capacity to 135 million passengers -- more than the entire population of Australia passing through six times a year.
International travellers will be familiar with the main Beijing Capital International Airport, 32 km to the northwest of the city in the direction of Shunyi.
The new airport will be located about 45 km south of the city, outside the city's Sixth Ring Road, in the Lixian area of Daxing district. The site is close to the route of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, which opens this June.
The extension to the Beijing Metro line 4 along the Daxing line, currently under construction, will also pass close to the new airport.
Beijing's current main airport is all the way across the city, over 85 km away, so Chinese planners will need to ensure that there is adequate transport for transfer passengers. Shanghai's airport maglev train takes 7 minutes to cover roughly half the distance at a top speed of 431 km/h, so the problem isn't insurmountable.
Tiny Nanyuan airport, 13 km south of Beijing, only offers internal flights on China United Airlines, making it a relatively smaller version of Melbourne's Avalon Airport in relation to the larger international airport in town.
Travellers to Tianjin, China's sixth largest city, which is 120 km southwest of Beijing, will also benefit from an airport situated between the two cities.
The plans have been approved by the Central Committee as part of the People's Republic of China Twelfth Five Year Plan, and now only need confirmation by the National People's Congress when it meets in March.
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.