The municipal government of Beijing and the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration assembled almost 9,000 passengers over the past weekend in an all-encompassing stress test of Daxing, the capital city’s new aviation gateway.
The inaugural flight from the US$13 billion, 30-square-kilometer hub is scheduled to soar into the skies on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Communist republic.
Xinhua reported that an army of 8,868 volunteers, carrying about 5,600 bags and suitcases, swarmed into the 1.03-million-square-meter terminal on Saturday and Sunday, when 140 flights were arranged to take off or land at Daxing’s cobweb of four runways in a scenario that mocked the spike in passenger flows prior to the Chinese Lunar New Year, also known as chunyun.
Other than Daxing’s check-in aisles, security screening channels, baggage drop and claim halls and the automatic people mover system, the “passengers” also tested and graded the airport’s food service and even the washrooms in a 40-hour test run that culminated in a simulation of 2,000 stranded fliers sleeping over in the terminal when air traffic was snarled by inclement weather.
The design of the cavernous terminal, inspired by a master concept by the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, aims to ensure that each passenger need only walk short distances to board a flight via the furtherest gate after going through checks in the central arcade.
About 200 people with disabilities were also invited to try out a whole host of barrier-free facilities, from automatic doors and ramps for wheelchair users to tactile guide paths and braille for the visually impaired to accessible toilets and drinking fountains. They were asked to provide feedback for further tweaks before Daxing’s official opening.
The Beijing Airport Authority noted that the drill involved China Southern, China Eastern, Xiamen Air, China United Airlines and others, as well as 208 check-in counters, 31 security check channels, 42 baggage reclaim carousels and 51 boarding gates and jet bridges, all used to the full to test their performance when operating at their maximum designed capacity.
Radio frequency identification technology to “tag” and track bags in real time and facial recognition in security screening are part of Daxing’s bid to be a “smart airport” and a vital cog in Asia and global aviation.
The new airport, located 60 kilometers south of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, straddles the border between the capital city and Hebei province. Aviation experts say Beijing enjoys a good geographical location for intercontinental transfer passengers who fly from the Pacific and Europe.
Beijing’s existing Capital International Airport is now the second busiest hub worldwide, second only to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Daxing has already started selling selected domestic and international flight tickets and some are being snapped up as they are cheaper than those to and from Capital Airport.