China Roars Ahead with Airport Growth

Routes News explores the development highlights of China’s busiest gateways outside of the country's top ten airports.

The Asia-Pacific region will lead world economic growth, both in real GDP with an average of 4.6 per cent per year and in trade with an average of 5.7 per cent per year according to forecasts. Within the region there is no doubt that China will continue to be the key market.

In the coming years it is set to become the world’s largest economy, and will be home to the World’s largest domestic aviation market. By 2033, it will be more than 60 per cent larger in terms of passengers, than today’s largest market in the US, even by conservative estimates.

With nearly 80 per cent of the Chinese population and economy within a range circle of about 2,000 km across Central and Eastern regions, congestion will remain a major talking point in China and an issue that will not be easily resolved. It is clear that new LCC entrants in China and growing secondary cities mean point-to-point services will help alleviate congestion at major hubs, such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, while moves to larger capacity airliners, even widebodied equipment on domestic sectors will support growing demand.

Here, we take a look at some of the fast growing Chinese airports, away from the country's ten largest facilities...

Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport

Hangzhou Xiaoshan, already the biggest and busiest airport in Zhejiang Province, is being further expanded with the aim of creating the largest facility on the eastern seaboard after Shanghai. The project is part of the strategy of the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK), which took a 35% stake in the Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport Co Ltd to develop the Chinese market.

Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport Co Ltd was first established in December 2000, but was converted into a joint venture company with a registered capital of $950 million in December 2006 when AAHK acquired its 35% stake for a 30-year term. The remaining 65% is held by the Zhejiang Province Airport Administrative Co, Hang Zhou Investment Holding Co Ltd, and Hang Zhou Xiaoshan Capital Management Co. Construction of Phase II of the expansion was started in November 2006, with the first stage completed in 2010. This included a 96,000m2 international terminal and auxiliary facilities. A 100,000m2 domestic terminal (T3) was opened in December.2012, and a 3,400 x 60m Class 4F runway, capable of handling the A380, will be in place by 2015, when the total area of terminals will be 230,000m2 with 85 gates.

Also part of Phase II is a 567,000m2 apron with 67 new parking bays and a FedEx cargo centre, which includes a 60,000m2 sorting centre and an apron with 26 aircraft stands.

Upon completion of both stages later this year, the estimated capacity at the airport will be 25.6 million passengers, 500,000 tonnes of cargo and 260,000 aircraft movements. In 2013, the airport handled 22.1 million passengers (+15.7%) and 368,095 tonnes of cargo (+8.8%). The long-term plan to 2035 provides for four runways, a total passenger terminal area of 570,000m2 and a 380,000m2 cargo warehouse. Annual capacity will double to 52 million passengers per annum (mppa), 1 million tonnes of cargo and mail, and 500,000 aircraft movements.

Xiamen Gaoqi international Airport

The major airport for the province is operated by the Xiamen Airport Development Co Ltd, established in May 1996. Completed recently were the $37 million Garden Plaza parking lot, which has space for 1,111 vehicles and an apron expansion. A new 72,000m2 Terminal 4, designed to handle 10mppa to 12mppa, was recently completed. Aimed at low-cost domestic airlines, the facility is part of a $667 million development project that will also add a new logistics centre, expanded aircraft aprons and a new runway that will effectively raise the airport’s capacity to 27mppa. In 2013, the gateway handled 19.7 million passengers (+13.8%) and 299,491 tonnes of cargo (+10.3%).

Wuhan Tianhe International Airport

The Hubei Airports Group has signed a strategic framework agreement with China’s leading airlines to develop the airport into an international aviation hub and, as result of the deal, Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines will base more than 60 aircraft at the airport. The airport opened a 120,000m2 terminal (T2) capable of accommodating 13mppa in 2008 as part of a development phase that also added a new 38,000m2 car park, 250,000m2 of apron and a 20,000m2 cargo warehouse. Terminal 1 was also renovated and its single runway lengthened by 400m to 3,600m.

A second runway capable of handling the A380 was completed in May 2009 as part of the airport’s Phase II expansion project that took the airport’s spending on new facilities to $535 million. Construction of Phase III – designed to develop Wuhan into China’s fourth hub after Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou – started in June 2013 and will add a futuristic 350,000m2 Terminal 3, a second 3,600 x 60m runway, two 3,600 x 25m parallel taxiways and connecting taxiways, a new apron for 54 aircraft, a new ATC building, an 11,000m2 cargo building, a 140,000m2 parking area and office buildings. When completed in 2020, the airport will boast more than 500,000m2 of terminal facilities, capable of handling 38mppa. Wuhan Tianhe handled 15.7 million passengers (+12.3%) and 130,000 tonnes of cargo (+1%) in 2013.

Urumqi Diwopu International Airport

Urumqi Diwopu is one of the most important airports in China’s northwest, serving the city of Xinjiang. In 2013, 15.3 million passengers (+15%) passed through the airport, which offers connections to more than 40 cities in China and 20 international destinations that includes all five central Asian republics. The airport’s newest terminal, the 106,000m2 Terminal 3 built at a cost of $440 million, opened in December 2009. T1 and T2 were reconstructed in 2011 as part of a $14 million modernisation programme.

A feasibility study has been completed for the Phase IV expansion of the airport although it has yet to receive approval. Its proposals are based on an ultimate annual capacity of 42mppa and include plans for a new runway capable of handling the Airbus A380 by 2025 and a fourth terminal building. Meanwhile, the National Development and Reform Commission has approved an $80 million proposal for a new 14,000m2 ATC complex with management training facilities and a VHF remote control system.

Changsha Huanghua International Airport

This airport serves the capital city of Hunan Province and is one of the most important in central China. It is a regional hub for China Southern Airlines and has connections to all principal cities in China, including Hong Kong. In 2013, 16 million passengers (+8.5%) passed through the airport making it the twelfth busiest on the mainland.

A major $348 million expansion, started in July 2006, was completed with the opening of the new 212,000m2 terminal – the fifth biggest in China – in July 2011. A 600m extension of the runway from 2,600m to 3,200m, together with additional taxiways and hardstands was completed in April 2009, while the renovation of the existing terminal and the enlargement of the parking area have recently been completed.

A new plan for the further development of the airport (2009-2040) has been drawn up based on an expected passenger throughput of 62 million passengers, 1.8 million tonnes of cargo and 502,000 aircraft movements annually by 2040. Part of the plan is a second runway, 3,800m in length, together with two parallel taxiways, the construction of which began in November 2013, following the completion of the necessary expropriation of land and relocation of housing.

Two further runways are also envisaged as is another terminal building, cargo complex, maintenance area and other ancillary facilities. Four rail stations are planned to facilitate access from the city.

Nanjing Lukou International Airport

Nanjing Lukou handled 15,011,792 passengers (+7.2%) and 255,789 tonnes of cargo and mail (+ 3%) in 2013. New additions to its infrastructure in 2014 included a second passenger terminal, new (second) 3,600m x 60m runway and 20,00m2 of hardstands for parking aircraft and ground support vehicles.

The new 260,000m2 Terminal 2 is equipped with 42 gates and has helped raise the airport’s capacity to 15 million passengers and 400,000 tonnes of freight per annum. The older terminals were renovated, expanded and improved under the umbrella of its Phase II development programme, approved in 2010. It is forecast that some 30 million passengers and 800,000 tonnes of cargo and mail per annum will pass through the airport by 2020. An airport rail link, the Ninggao Intercity Line was completed in late 2014 to add to the facility’s offering.

BROOKS REPORTS: This article is based on extracts from Brooks Market Intelligence’s new report, The People’s Republic of China – Airports, Capital Investment Programmes 2014, which takes an in depth look at the development of China’s airport system. Copies can be purchased at:

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