CHINA has opened what is likely to become the “world’s busiest” airport capable of handling 120million travellers as the rest of the world reels from the devastation caused by Covid.
The £8billion Chengdu Tianfu International Airport officially opened on Sunday with the inaugural flight, operated by Sichuan Airlines, taking off at 11.10am on its way to Beijing.
Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province, is now the third city in the country to boast two international airports, alongside Shanghai and Beijing.
The initial phase of the mega-airport has the capacity to handle 60m passengers a year and opens up the country’s southwest region.
The site contains three runways and two terminals, covering 710,000 square metres.
Further expansion is planned, with the state media outlet Xinhua reporting the airport will eventually be capable of handling 120m passengers every year and the terminals covering 1.4million square metres.
China’s domestic aviation traffic rose by 6.8 per cent in April 2021, compared to the same month in 2019, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
China’s Baiyun International Airport in the southern city of Guangzhou is currently the world’s busiest airport, snatching the title from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson in 2020, although travellers were down from the year before due to the pandemic
In 2019 Hartsfield-Jackson handled more than 110m passengers.
The Sichuan province is known for being the home of the giant panda as well as its spicy cuisine, making it a popular tourist attraction for both domestic and international travellers.
Aviation analyst Brendan Sobie said: “The new airport in Chengdu was needed to accommodate continued rapid growth.
“China’s domestic market has already fully recovered from the pandemic and will continue to grow rapidly. Given the size of the city and its central location in China, Chengdu is very well-positioned to benefit.”
The new Chengdu Tianfu International Airport was created by a consortium comprising the China Southwest Architectural Design and Research Institute, China Airport Construction Group Corporation and French architectural firm ADP Ingenierie.
The first phase of the development took five years to complete and features a host of cutting-edge technologies, including facial recognition software, self-check-in kiosks, smart security systems, self-boarding gates and AI robot concierges.
The Chengdu Tianfu airport is just one of a number of airports planned by China to open up in the coming years.
The country aims to have 400 airports in use by 2035, a huge expansion from the current 241, according to the Transportation Network Planning Outline issued by the government in early 2021.
In 2019 China opened up the massive Daxing International Airport which has a terminal the size of 97 football pitches.
The sparkling gleam of the Chengu Tianfu airport is in stark contrast to shoddy conditions found at the Wuhan lab which could be the source of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A bombshell study found grotty sewage systems were potentially contaminating canals with toxic waste from the labs, university students failed to wear lab coats or eye protection, and facilities were slammed as “chaotic and crowded”.