Caixin
Jun 28, 2021 07:49 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

High Hopes for Newly Opened Chengdu Airport

The first flight from Chengdu Tianfu International Airport on Sunday. Photo: VCG
The first flight from Chengdu Tianfu International Airport on Sunday. Photo: VCG

Chengdu became the third Chinese city to operate two major airports this week, alongside Beijing and Shanghai, with the authorities aiming to turn the new airport into a major transportation hub in the country’s less developed interior.

The new, 75 billion yuan ($11.6 billion) Chengdu Tianfu International Airport saw its first flights take off on Sunday, the state-owned Xinhua News Agency reported (link in Chinese), becoming the southwestern city’s new primary airport alongside its older Shuangliu International Airport.

The new airport will focus on international routes, while Shuangliu will mainly operate domestic flights to cities on the Chinese mainland and to Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

The opening of the new airport reflects the government’s intent to develop Chengdu and nearby Chongqing into a fourth international transport hub on the Chinese mainland, as investments in airports, high-speed railways and other infrastructure remain a major driver of the country’s economic growth.

The other three hubs are in the northern Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei metropolitan area, the eastern Yangtze River Delta centered on Shanghai; and the southern Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay area, according to an official guideline (link in Chinese) on China’s transportation development released earlier this year.

Tianfu airport has two terminals with the capacity to handle 60 million passenger trips each year and 1.3 million tons of cargo, Xinhua said. The airport will be able to handle 120 million passenger trips and 2.8 million tons of cargo annually by 2035.

Major airlines operating out of Chengdu — including Air China Ltd., Sichuan Airlines Co. Ltd., and China Eastern Airlines Co. Ltd. — will move some flights to the new airport, the Chengdu Economic Daily reported (link in Chinese), citing a plan on the airport released in 2019. All cargo flights and international passenger flights currently at the Shuangliu Airport will be moved to Tianfu Airport, it said.

The construction of Tianfu Airport was proposed in 2011 when Shuangliu began to struggle with growing demand, leading to frequent delays.

Tianfu Airport is not currently handling international flights due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The civil aviation industry has been hit by the recent resurgence of Covid-19 cases in South China’s Guangdong province, as flights have been grounded at Guangzhou and Shenzhen airports.

Contact reporter Guo Yingzhe (yingzheguo@caixin.com) and editor Flynn Murphy (flynnmurphy@caixin.com)

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