To ease heavy air traffic pressure in Beijing, airports in nearby Tianjin and Hebei province have increased regional routes to meet the needs of people requiring access to the capital.
The adjustment is part of a broad move to promote the integrated growth of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei.
“Because Beijing Capital International Airport has reached the saturation point and a new airport in Daxing is under construction, there’s an opportunity and obligation for airports in the vicinity－such as Tianjin and Shijiazhuang airports－to receive passengers coming in and out of Beijing,” said Yan Xin, deputy general manager at Capital Airport Holding Co.
Beijing Capital, China’s busiest and the world’s second-busiest airport, handled 94 million passengers in 2016. It was designed to handle about 80 million. The overflowing passenger volume has created problems including an increased chance of flight delays. To ease the pressure, Beijing is building a second airport, which is expected to open in late 2019.
The nearby airports are making efforts to provide alternate paths to Beijing. Tianjin Binhai International Airport, for example, is focused on improving services with that in mind, Yan said.
The annual passenger load at the Tianjin airport hit 20 million on Dec 15, partly the result of diverting some passengers from Beijing.
The Tianjin airport is good for Beijing-bound passengers in three ways, he said－lower price, convenient transport connections and direct flights to less-popular regions that don’t connect with the capital.
Tianjin’s airport has a direct subway link to the city’s primary railway station, where passengers can take a bullet train to Beijing in half an hour. It takes about 70 minutes to go from Beijing South Railway Station to the Tianjin airport.
“The Tianjin airport has expanded its air network to open routes to less popular regions and to serve passengers from those places who need to get to Beijing,” said Sun Yu, general manager of marketing department at Tianjin airport. “Beijing Capital is less likely to approve new slots for regional flights, but Tianjin can.”
Regional flights from Tianjin to 19 small and medium-sized airports in less popular areas were added this year, including a direct flight to Zhalantun Airport in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region and a direct flight to Xiahe, Gansu province.
In summer and fall this year, the airport handled more than 3,500 flights per week－19.6 percent annual growth.
With the drive to integrate the development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Civil Aviation Administration of China jointly released a guideline in early December to boost the integrated development of civil aviation in the region.
Beijing will form dual-hub airports to prioritize international flights. Tianjin and Shijiazhuang will prioritize regional flights and provide some assistance to Beijing in receiving international flights.
“Major airports in the region－Beijing Capital, Tianjin Binhai and Shijiazhuang Zhengding－all belong to Capital Airport Holding, which is convenient for integrated development,” Yan said.
Feng Zhenglin, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said at a forum in late May: “China will stick to supply-side reforms and build a world-class, multiple-airport system to better support its world-class metropolises.”
He added that China will also develop an “air silk road” to connect China with the world.
“City clusters and multi-airport systems are the essence and trend of global city development,” he said.