As a frequent flyer himself, yours truly hasn’t really felt customs and immigration queues worse than those at the Gongbei Port (between mainland China and Macao), and at the old Terminal 1 at Beijing Airport, when, before 1999, everyone was packed into one minuscule terminal. Since Terminal 2 “took flight” in late 1999, clearing customs and immigration has been less of a pain.
From that point alone, it might appear somewhat “pointless” that Beijing, home now to the ginormous Terminal 3, would be thinking of a new airport, but if Heathrow’s got it, so can Beijing: the crunch on the tarmac, that is. The queues have now been “transferred” from the immigration counters to the runways: domestic flights are “generally” 2 hours late on the tarmac, whilst even international airliners could be hit as much as 30 minutes before they’re airborne.
From that reason alone, it would surprise no-one that Beijing’s new airport is now being built after receiving official government permission. The new mega-air-hub is to be built approximately 50 kilometres south of Tian’anmen, central Beijing, and is expected to be fully integrated with city and regional metro, HSR and expressway networks. Scheduled for completion by 2019, phase 1 alone is likely to be a godsend to frequent flyers, as no less than 4 runways are part of the new plans. There are plans to nearly double that to a grand total of 7 runways, which even if Beijing Capital Airport doesn’t get a fourth runway, will bring Beijing’s total airport runways, city-wide, to ten.
(One could just about hear all London airports banging their heads against the wall, then — Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, and Southend — in unison; the same for Paris CDG and Orly…)
The new airport will be formed of a main north terminal, but will also be built so that a future southern satellite terminal would be ready. The main terminal appears in the air like a flower — which should both look nice and be functional (as it would allow for the construction of more airbridges).
Most of the works will get underway in earnest by 2015. Two things that remain unknown even now are whether or not Beijing’s airports will, destination-wise, be more like London (with both key airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, both doing international routes, especially intercontinental routes) or be more like Shanghai (where international flights are basically the business of only one airport with very few exceptions). Further unknown is the final, finalised (pardon the pun) name of the airport, as the previously proposed name, Beijing Daxing International Airport, might tick some local residents off (the airport straddles the borders of Beijing municipality and Hebei province!).
The worst that can happen, in the meantime, are the queues. Immigration staff at Beijing Airport are now nicer as there are more counters to clear more travellers faster, but if you find yourself foaming at the mouth on the tarmac, take a nice, Zen-like moment to calm down, relax, and understand the worst of the worst will be over by late 2019, when this new airport will be reality.