The Incredible ‘Mega Hub’ Airports Almost Ready to Open

The next decade of aviation looks set to be the most exciting yet, especially for Asia.

While political spats continue to prevent expansions at airport hubs such as London Heathrow, and while some brand new airports are yet to see the light of day (yes, I’m referring to Berlin)…it’s worth turning our attention to the airports that are already well on their way to becoming among the most dominant aviation areas of the Earth.

Istanbul New Airport

In a little over seven weeks, Istanbul’s new megahub airport will activate its runways to airline jets, and open its doors to passengers.

The huge, new hub airport for Turkey will become the main airport for the country, overnight.

Istanbul are using the opportunity to define the new airport as the ‘major hub at the intersection of Asia, Europe, and Middle East’ – an interesting tagline, with special emphasis on Istanbul’s geographical presence in two continents, plus its close proximity the Middle East — home to fierce rival airports in the Gulf.

The Airport

Istanbul’s New airport (which will take over the ‘IST’ airport code) will be one of the largest international airports in the world, especially once the final phase is finished, sometime by 2028.

There will eventually be six runways, and an annual capacity of 200 million passengers — but for now, the airport will launch this year with three runways, and immediate capacity for around 90 million passengers.

In addition to this, Istanbul’s new airport will be home to the largest duty free zone in the world.

Despite a two-year downturn in Turkey’s tourism sector, and a very recent sharp fall in the Lira (which has fallen more than 40% against the dollar this year), the airport is on-time for its scheduled opening at the end of October 2018.

The Move

Moving airport hubs is a huge task, and the enormity of an airline’s move shouldn’t be underestimated.

Turkish Airlines are the flag carrier, and largest operator at Istanbul’s current hub airport (Atatürk), and while I’m sure they’d like to start a gradual move in to the new place, the airline cannot have any change or disruption to its current vast schedule at Atatürk.

Instead, Turkish Airlines, who fly to more countries than any other airline in the world, will make the move over to Istanbul’s New Airport around 50 hours prior to its opening.

The carrier will use over almost 1,000 trucks and vehicles to transfer all of the airline’s airport equipment and facilities from Atatürk Airport to Istanbul New Airport.

With the help of the authorities, the airline expect the process will take approximately 45 hours — faster than it takes most of us to move house!

Then, at midnight on October 31, Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport will be closed for commercial operations, and Istanbul New Airport will take over as the new ‘megahub’ for Turkey.

Beijing Daxing Airport

China, set to be among the world’s biggest aviation markets by 2022, will soon be home to another Beijing airport.

In the southern part of the Chinese capital, Beijing Daxing Airport is expected to see its first aircraft take-off from one of its (initial) four runways in October 2019.

The huge project is well-underway, and if you’re flying to Beijing anytime soon, you should keep an eye out for the soon-to-be iconic terminal, during the descent phase of your flight.


The Airport

With a total floor area of over one million square meters, Beijing’s Daxing’s almost ‘starfish’ shaped terminal will be among the world’s biggest…but still slightly smaller than Istanbul’s New Airport.

The terminal at Daxing is designed by Zaha Hadid, a famous Iraqi-British architect.

There will be 79 ‘tentacle-like’ airbridges, ready to be used by over 100 million passengers, upon its opening.

Extraordinarily; there are already expansion plans under approval, and the airport intends to eventually have around seven runways.

Interestingly, the architect has actively recognised that bigger isn’t always better. She says: “To shorten the walking distance for passengers, the airport will use distributed zones of operation. For example, from the center area to the farthest gate, a passenger will need to walk less than 8 minutes to cover a distance of 600 meters.”

The Move

Details concerning how Chinese airlines will reposition themselves across the soon-to-be three Beijing airports are yet to be released, but we know that one-third of the slots at Daxing Airport will be reserved for China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China also said that it will encourage airline companies to operate at the new airport, and will provide full support for companies wanting to become international airlines, if they make the move. It’s certainly an interesting proposition, as a simple move to Daxing could mean the conversion of a Chinese domestic carrier, to a Chinese international airline.

Final Thought

These are two very exciting projects, and as passengers, we’ll be able to fly to/from/through them very soon.

What particularly stood out to me, was the architect of Beijing Daxing’s airport idea regarding reducing the walking times in the vast terminal.

With airports increasing in size around the world, the average time it takes for a passenger to walk to a boarding gate increases year on year.

I recently ran for a connecting flight at Zurich Airport (ZRH), running (with luggage and shopping bags) all the way from Concourse E, to the departure gates in Zone B. For those of you unfamiliar with the layout of Zurich, it’s quite some distance.

While the crew were kind enough to hold the flight for 10 minutes until I had boarded (the other passengers had all boarded early, leaving some spare time on the ground), I started to appreciate all of the small, yet super-easy airports we often take for granted.

It’s partly why London City Airport (LCY) remains one of my favourites.

Despite this, these megahub airports are the future, and it will be very interesting to observe how these two major airports further enhance their respective aviation industries, but also how they will influence passenger travel across the globe.

Which new megahub airport are you most excited to fly to/from/through?

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