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China's Chengdu plans new US$11 billion airport to ease congestion

Thursday, January 15, 2015 - 14:54

[BEIJING] Chengdu, the largest city in southwest China, has received regulatory approval to build a 69.3 billion yuan (US$11.2 billion) airport, the official Sichuan Daily said on Thursday, marking the country's second major airport investment in less than a year.

The new Chengdu facility will have three runways, capable of handling 40 million passengers upon its completion in 2025, according to the paper.

China is scrambling to build facilities to manage its fast-growing aviation sector, as congestion at major airports lead to endemic delays and growing passenger frustration.

Passenger volumes have been growing at a rapid clip. China's airports handled more than 754 million passengers in 2013, up 11 per cent from 2012 and 86 per cent from five years earlier, official data shows.

In December, Beijing started construction on a new US$14 billion international airport capable of handling 72 million passengers and 2 million tons of cargo annually.

Chengdu's existing Shuangliu International Airport, first built in 1938, is the fifth busiest airport in the country and serves as a hub for inland China destinations for such carriers as Air China Co Ltd, AirAisia X Bhd and Korean Air Lines Co Ltd among others.

Passenger throughput at the Shuangliu facility increased 12.8 per cent to over 37 million last year, more than doubling the volume of 13.9 million in 2005. It could reach its designed capacity of 40 million as early as next year, according to some estimates.

Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, will become the third major Chinese city to boast a second airport, after Beijing and Shanghai. Local regulators could not be reached immediately for comment.

Beijing Capital International Airport, which operates the Beijing airport, the country's largest, handled around 86 million passengers in 2014, up 2.9 per cent from a year earlier. Throughput at Shanghai's two facilities came to 89.6 million, up 8.2 per cent year on year.

A shortage of slots at major Chinese airports, along with China's restricted air corridors, have been causing constant delays at Chinese airports which sometimes lead to riots.

Two Chinese passengers were jailed over the weekend for opening an aircraft's emergency exit door as it was taxiing, to protest a lengthy flight delay, according to media reports.

Other Chinese cities are also moving to expand their airports to handle fast-rising passenger flows. Dalian, a coastal city in the northeast, plans to build an airport on a 20.9 square-kilometer (8.07 square-mile) artificial island to be created off its coast at a total cost of 26.3 billion yuan.

REUTERS