Massive airport with world's largest terminal opens in Beijing

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday inaugurated a second international airport for the Chinese capital with the world's biggest terminal ahead of celebrations of the Communist Party's 70th anniversary in power.

Beijing Daxing International Airport is designed to handle 72 million passengers a year. Located on the capital's south side, it was built in less than five years at a cost of $17 billion

The terminal is being billed as the largest in the world, measuring an estimated 11 million square feet.

The terminal is being billed as the largest in the world, measuring an estimated 11 million square feet. (Naohiko Hatta/Kyodo News via AP)

The airline's first commercial flight, a China Southern Airlines plane bound for the southern province of Guangdong, took off Wednesday afternoon, state broadcaster CCTV reported. Six more flights took off later for Shanghai and other destinations.

The main Beijing airport, located in the city's northeast, is the world's second-busiest after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and is nearing capacity.

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Daxing, designed by the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, includes a terminal billed as the world's biggest at 11 million square feet.

Despite that, its builders say travelers will need to walk no more than 2,000 feet to reach any boarding gate.

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The massive airport cost an estimated $17 billion and was built in less than five years.

The massive airport cost an estimated $17 billion and was built in less than five years. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

The vast, star-shaped airport is about 30 miles south of downtown Beijing. It has four runways, with plans for as many as three more.

Carriers including British Airways and state-owned China Southern, the country's biggest airline by passengers, plan to move to Daxing from Beijing Capital International Airport.

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The capital has a third airport, Nanyuan, for domestic flights, but the government says that will close once Daxing is in operation.