Next time you fly to Beijing, remember to check before which airport you will be landing at. Beijing is set to inaugurate its US$12-billion new aviation gateway that is second to none worldwide.

Planes will start soaring into the skies from Daxing Airport by the end of September, a fanfare project to show that the sky’s the limit when it comes to what China can achieve – and mark the 70th anniversary of the Communist republic.

The new hub comes a little over a decade after Beijing opened the 986,000-square-meter Terminal 3 at its existing Capital International Airport, still one of the largest of its kind worldwide, prior to the 2008 Olympic Games. But air traffic remains strong given the nation’s stellar economic rise and, with skies above the old airport crowded, a new airport became necessary.

Chinese cadres invited the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid to design Daxing with seemingly one requirement: every user of the future hub must be awed. So together they came up with a masterplan for a colossal 3.37 million-square-meter terminal with five concourses and six runways that can easily dwarf New York’s JFK, London’s Heathrow and Singapore’s Changi.

Aerial views of Daxing’s terminal, shaped like a giant starfish. Photos: Xinhua, Central News Agency

Daxing has five departure concourses, each with ‘tentacles’ of the terminal serving destinations across Asia. Photos: Xinhua
Construction workers put final touches on the interior decoration of the giant terminal. Photo: China News Service

Chinese party mouthpieces have been hailing Daxing as a triumph of design and modern engineering.

The ground floor of the terminal has the world’s biggest single slab of concrete, and each floor covers nearly 250,000 square meters on average, roughly the area of 35 football pitches.

The star-shaped, golden-roofed airport is expected to handle 72 million passengers plus two million tons of cargo per annum by 2025. These figures are expected to rise to 100 million flyers and four million tons of goods a year, perhaps surpassing Hartsfield–Jackson the international airport in Atlanta that is currently the world’s busiest.

It is remarkable to think that the site of the new airport was barren wasteland in the wilderness of northern China a little over five years ago.

The major contractor of the new airport project told Xinhua that Daxing’s opening is well on schedule and President Xi Jinping’s Chinese Air Force One could be the first plane to take off from one of its runways.

China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines flights will depart to and from Daxing, and, connections via a high-speed railway, a subway line and motorway network will help link the airport to the Beijing and its surrounds. Beijing has a population of more than 21 million people, second only to Shanghai, which has at least 26 million residents.