China’s Airport-Building Frenzy Continues

By Liz Hands | April 5, 2020

China demonstrated its construction prowess to the world when it built a makeshift emergency hospital in just six days at the height of the COVID-19 crisis at Wuhan.

While no-one is suggesting the same quick-fix prefabricated methods will be used in its new airport construction, China is now pressing ahead with its promised airport-building binge as it aims to build an additional 215 airports within the next 15 years.

According to a recent survey by global management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, 77% of Chinese travellers say they will be embarking on domestic travel as their first trip when the COVID-19 situation stabilizes. Domestic airlines within China will be keen to capitalize on that sentiment, with analysts indicating the domestic sector will be showing significant recovery by June, while international travel will take longer to bounce back.

Daxing Under Construction ©

China is looking to the future, with plans to build around 14 airports every single year on average until 2035. China already has some of the biggest, and smartest, airports on the planet. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has a target of adding another 215 airports at strategic locations across the country, which would bring China’s airport total up to 450.

The aim is to make China’s aviation sector a key element of its whopping trillion-dollar economy. First announced back in 2007, the plan will help to stimulate growth and recovery following COVID-19 and means that China’s aviation industry could be the biggest in the world within the next four years, surpassing that of fellow superpower, the United States.

China’s aviation sector has understandably been impacted in the same way as in other countries worldwide, as COVID-19 continues to ground fleets and close borders, but China’s authorities are continuing to look to the long-term by pressing ahead with approvals for new airports as well as expansions to existing runways and terminals.

Shenzhen Terminal 3 © The Verge

During the past few weeks, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), which is responsible for state planning approvals, has given the green light to three new projects. These include the construction of a US $13.1bn third runway project at Shenzhen airport, in the far south of the country neighbouring Hong Kong.

Building has also resumed on 81 airport projects which had stalled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the authorities in Shandong province have indicated that they are working to help migrant workers to return from their hometowns as well as hiring local staff so that construction on delayed projects can start once more, as China aims to hit its ambitious airport construction targets.

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