Shanghai's Pudong airport. Photo: Xinhua
Shanghai's Pudong airport. Photo: Xinhua

The airspace above China is about to get more crowded, but that will be good news for construction companies and jet manufacturers. Beijing unveiled on Tuesday a sky-high vision to add as many as 216 new airports across the nation and boost capacity at key hubs by the mid-2030s.

The plan means almost double the number of airports in operation within just 15 years: China had 234 civil airports as at the end of October, according to the Civil Aviation Administration.

By that time, one in every four passengers the world’s airports handle will be in China.

The bonanza will mean more new airports in central and western China’s strategically located cities and tourist attractions, and also gigantic terminuses and a cobweb of runways serving megacities and well-off second-tier urban centers, now that many of them are revving up construction of their second airports.

Beijing’s Daxing airport under construction. Photo: Xinhua
Shanghai’s Pudong airport. Photo: Google Maps

The first flight is slated to take off from Daxing Airport, Beijing’s second airport, in October 2019.

With eight runways and a 1-million-square-meter terminal, Daxing will dwarf New York’s JFK, London’s Heathrow and Singapore’s Changi as the biggest hub in northern China to serve the Chinese capital and  satellite towns in the megalopolis to handle 100 million passenger per year.

The two airports in Shanghai – Pudong and Hongqiao – recorded a combined annal passenger throughput of 130 million in 2017 and Shanghai is building the fifth runway at Pudong.

As a whole, China’s airports handled 552 million trips last year.

A China Southern Airlines Boeing 777 passenger jet is seen at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. Photo: Zhang Yimo /

Meanwhile, China’s civil-aviation industry will need to procure more than 6,100 aircraft over the next two decades, according to a report compiled by Aviation Industry Corporation of China in November 2017.

The report estimated that by 2036, the nation’s combined fleet of passenger jets will hit the 7,000 mark, from the current level of 2,818.

Currently, Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines is the nation’s biggest carrier by fleet size with 548 planes.

Last year, Boeing signed US$37 billion worth of deals for Chinese purchases of 300 planes, including 40 787s and 777s, though the trade frissons between China and the US have cast uncertainty on those. Also in 2017, Chinese carriers entered $22.8 billion worth of deals for 140 Airbus planes.

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