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Beijing's new Daxing airport opens

Chinese President Xi Jinping has officially opened the new mega-airport at Daxing, outside Beijing, hailed as the biggest flight hub by surface area in the world. Beijing's new airport started operations on Wednesday, giving travellers an alternative to the city's now crowded Capital International Airport. Image -

The new airport is reportedly the biggest airport in the world by surface area. It covers some 70 hectares (173 acres), and the terminal's starfish-shaped structure was purposely designed to shorten walking times for passengers.

Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid designed the building before her death in 2016, but the airport took less than five years to build after starting construction in late 2014. The airport authorities predict it will handle up to 72 million passengers per year by 2025 and around 100 million upon reaching full capacity in 2040.

At the launch ceremony on Wednesday, overseen by President Xi Jinping, Chinese officials hailed it as a "new powerful source of national development."

While reports vary on the construction's cost, the AFP news agency reported expenses reached some 120 billion yuan ($16.9 billion, €15.3 billion) for the airport and another 280 billion yuan to build new rail and road links. Travellers taking an express train from Daxing will take some 20 minutes to reach the city as the airport is located about 46 kilometers (29 miles) south from Beijing's city centre, which is almost twice as far as the old airport in the city's northeast.

Left - President Xi Jinping opens the airport (Reuters/T. Suen)

The opening comes just days before China is set to mark a 70-year-anniversary of its Communist state. China is also set to overtake the United States as the world's largest aviation market by 2022.

According to state agency the Global Times, seven domestic airlines were expected to begin operations out of the new airport on opening day. The first flight - a China Southern Airlines A380 - took off at 16:23 local time, and international carriers including British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Finnair have already announced routes to the new airport.

With the ope