China is growing at a torrid pace as a market for domestic air travel. Add in the increasing international flights coming into its main airports, and the “hubs” are getting even busier.
Beijing Capital International Airport, the main one for the nation’s capital, is rapidly approaching the title of the busiest airport on Planet Earth.
Want proof? Beijing Capital has gone from 15 million passengers in 1995 to 78.7 million in 2011. That is an average increase of 10.92% per year. That is IN SPITE OF the economic crisis that started in 2008.
Now, the annual average increase may not sound like much, but it has put BCIA within striking distance of bumping Atlanta Hartsfield out of the #1 spot. Atlanta has held that position for 15 years, but will not much longer.
Atlanta Hartsfield is expected to continue to grow its total passenger seats slowly. Beijing will continue to grow passenger seats at a faster pace, due to China’s rising middle class. Opinions vary, but expect this change in leadership to happen sometime within the next 3 years, maybe even this year.
The Factors and Ramifications
Charisse Jones, writing for USA Today, covers some important facts about China’s air travel growth and the implications that it holds for the future. Beijing’s chief airport is and will be at the center of this growth.
I am just going to summarize a few facts and implications from Charisse’s article.
Middle Class Numbers Are Rising
The ability of the Chinese to afford travel has been rising. This growing middle class will want to travel more, both for business and pleasure.
Number One Future Aircraft Purchaser
China will be the number one buyer of aircraft from Boeing, and most likely Airbus. In addition, China’s own companies are developing commercial planes to fill part of this need. The estimated need from Boeing is for 5,260 new planes by 2032.
Pilots, Pilots, They Need Pilots
All those new planes are going to need competent pilots, 71,300 of them. China will have a hard time growing that many new pilots domestically, so they are soliciting foreign pilots to come and fly for them. This means that the communist state is even offering inducements and loosening requirements to get those pilots.
Increase in Brand Spanking New Airports
China is building new large airports at a rapid pace. In the last 4 years, 24 new airports have gone into operation. As new domestic airports come on line, the major international airports such as Beijing and Shanghai will get even more connecting flights.
With more connecting flights, Beijing will need even more gates. A new airport with 6 runways to supplement BCIA is being planned for the Beijing area, with expected operation starting in 2017.
Expansion of US Carrier Flights
American based carriers are not sitting still. They are licking their lips to sell seats to these new potential customers. The flyers will need long haul flights to and from China. United, American, and Delta are all increasing the number of flights to major Chinese cities.
Beijing’s Dominance In Air Travel is Inevitable
It may be this year, or next, but the collision of all the above factors will assuredly land Beijing Capital International on top of all airports worldwide. Can Beijing keep up with the load of passengers and gates? It has so far, and hopefully will continue to be able to handle the ever larger crush of humanity passing through its halls.
Visit +Kenny Edwards on Google+.