Is the airport constructed in China larger than other airports around the world?

CLAIM: The airport constructed in China is larger than other airports around the world, including the İstanbul Airport opened on October 29, 2018.

FALSE

According to the claims shared on social media and on various news sites, the world’s largest airport named Beijing Daxing International Airport is being constructed in China. Besides, it was asserted that Beijing Daxing International Airport is larger than İstanbul Airport which was opened on October 29, 2018, and claimed to be the largest airport in the world.

On social media, Beijing Daxing International Airport is compared to İstanbul Airport with respect to various aspects. This analysis aims to find out the ranking of both airports among the other airports in the world by surface area, potential annual passenger number, passenger capacity, size of the terminal area and cost of the airport.

The analysis turned out that Beijing Daxing International Airport would not be the world’s largest airport considering the aspects scrutinized. Meanwhile, it can be said that İstanbul Airport opened by President Erdoğan on October 29, 2018, has the potential for being the largest airport of the world by its passenger capacity after all of its construction phases are completed.

The largest airport by surface area is King Fahd International Airport

A list compiled by the World Atlas -updated on April 4, 2018- shows the largest airports by surface area. Top 15 airports are as follows:

It is stated on the website of IGA – the company established for construction of İstanbul Airport- that the newly-opened airport occupies an area of 76.5 million square meter. 76.5 million square meter corresponds to 7,650 hectares. Thus, it can be said that İstanbul Airport may rank number three in this list.

Beijing Daxing International Airport planned to be opened in September 2019 is known to be constructed on a land of 6,620 acres. This figure is equal to approximately 2,679 hectares. In this regard, it can be suggested that the airport in Beijing may enter the list after Amsterdam Airport ranked as the fourteenth airport.

Hartsfield – Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the leader by passenger number

The list of airports showing the highest number of passengers for 2017 can be found in the report prepared by Airport Council International. Top 15 airports in the list are given below:

İstanbul Airport and Beijing Daxing International Airport were under construction in 2017, so they are not included in the list. Nevertheless, it is possible to obtain several information about the passenger capacity of both airports.

It is mentioned on website of IGA that İstanbul Airport will have a passenger capacity of 200 million after all phases are finalized as of 2027. News of Anadolu Agency regarding this subject emphasizes the completion of all phases until 2023. İstanbul Airport only the first phase of which was ended has a passenger capacity of 90 million now.

It is highlighted that Beijing Daxing International Airport will have a passenger capacity of 45 million, 70 million and over 100 million in the first phase, in 2025 and after 2025, respectively.

Passenger capacity may not determine passenger number

A substantial point to be emphasized for both airports is that passenger capacity may not determine passenger number directly.

Many of the passengers thought to use İstanbul Atatürk Airport may use the new airport. The most critical reason for this is the end of domestic and international flights in İstanbul Atatürk Airport as of December 31, 2018. Considering the passenger number of this airport in 2017, it is seen that the new airport has normally a potential for hosting from 60 million to 65 million passengers in the first step. According to various claims, this new airport will make İstanbul a significant transfer hub. Thus, it can be said that the potential for number of passengers may increase in this case. Even if it operates in full capacity, İstanbul Airport which has a passenger capacity of 90 million in the first phase cannot host as many passengers as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (about 104 million passengers) and Beijing Capital International Airport (about 96 million passengers) hosted in 2017.

Beijing Nanyuan Airport is expected to be closed after the opening of Beijing Daxing International Airport although it is the second airport of the city following Beijing Capital International Airport. The said airport planned to be closed hosted approximately 6 million passengers in 2017. It is specified that the new airport under construction will lessen the burden on Beijing Capital International Airport to some extent. However, it is not easy to predict how many passengers will be canalized to the new airport from Beijing Capital International Airport, the second largest airport in the list above. In this respect, it seems unlikely to estimate the ranking of the new airport. On the other hand, it can be said that it will hardly take place near the top in the recent time.

Can İstanbul Airport be the world’s largest airport by passenger capacity?

Although it looks difficult for Beijing Daxing International Airport or İstanbul Airport to take the lead with respect to number of passengers in the first phase, both airports may aim for the top in such a list.

Any list based on the passenger capacity of airports cannot be found. However, it can be said that İstanbul Airport projected to render service to 200 million passengers may blaze the trail after the completion of all construction phases. On the other side, Beijing Daxing International Airport is claimed to serve to 130 million passengers per year at most in full capacity.

Any information about the passenger capacity of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport which hosted approximately 104 million passengers in the last year is not available. Nevertheless, it can be addressed that this airport is subject to renovation with the aim of raising its passenger capacity.

What can be said regarding the size of terminal area?

Beijing Daxing International Airport is highlighted to be “the world’s largest airport” in a video prepared by DW. According to the video, terminal area of the airport will occupy 700,000 square meter. However, it is hard to claim that such statistics will make the airport take the lead with regard to the size of terminal area. Although any data about the size of terminal areas of all airports cannot be obtained, İstanbul Airport is known to have a terminal area of 1.44 million square meter.

Al Maktoum International Airport is one of the most costly airports   

A report titled “Analysis on Economic Effect of the New İstanbul Airport” issued in June 2016 shows that the estimated cost of İstanbul Airport is 10.25 billion euros. This figure corresponds to nearly 11.6 billion US dollars. Beijing Daxing International Airport is asserted to cost around 11.26 billion US dollars.

Even if it is not likely to find a reliable source which indicates the construction costs of airports, it is hard to say that both airports will be at the top of a list which is formed by costs. On the other hand, various reports mention that the cost of Al Maktoum International Airport may reach 32 billion US dollars. Likewise, Hong Kong International Airport is reported to cost about 20 billion US dollars.

To sum up, it can be said that Beijing Daxing International Airport in China will not be regarded as the world’s largest airport considering the aspects analyzed. However, it can be suggested that İstanbul Airport has the potential for being the largest airport in the world by passenger capacity after the completion of all phases.

At this point, it is significant to underline the uncertainty of such claims. There is always a possibility of the emergence of a new airport project in a different country which aims to exceed the targeted passenger capacity of İstanbul Airport within the period until the completion of all phases planned for İstanbul Airport. Even though we have no information regarding the existence of such a project, this point should not be ignored while evaluating these predictions or these claims.

Sources

World Atlas, The Largest Airports In The World

İGA, About Us

Airport Technology, Beijing Daxing International Airport

Airport Council International, ACI World releases preliminary 2017 world airport traffic rankings, April 9, 2018

İGA, Phases

Anadolu Agency, New İstanbul Airport is opening, October 29, 2018

İGA, Airports

Centre for Aviation, Beijing Daxing International Airport

TRT News, Last commercial flight of Atatürk Airport is on December 31, October 30, 2018

Sabah, Aycı: New airport will leverage THY, May 23, 2017

Project Details, Pekin Daxing International Airport, October 15, 2017

ATLNext - A Next Era for Hartsfield-Jackson

İGA, Analysis on Economic Effect of New İstanbul Airport, June 2016

CNN Travel, World's latest mega-airport finally opens to passengers, October 29, 2013

International Airport Review, Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)

Translation: Sonay Ün