A Look Inside Terminal 3, China’s Monster Airport
Terminal 3 isn’t the most recent killer robot movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s the $3.8 billion airport in Beijing, China: an enormous, colorful glass house for air travelers. Groundbreaking on Terminal 3 was in 2004, and it opened for business in February of this year, an incredible feat that the builders say is thanks to China’s round-the-clock construction teams. Many workers lived on the airport grounds during the building process.
Terminal 3 is 14 million square feet; that’s twice the size of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A German manufacturer created a baggage handling system that carries nearly 20,000 suitcases, backpacks and pieces of luggage every hour. There’s nearly 300 check-in booths, to process people almost as quickly as their luggage. Before Chinese travelers get on their plane, they can stop at one of 64 different restaurants or 90 stores. A light-rail shuttle takes travelers across the airport in three minutes. If they choose to walk, they’ll see ancient Chinese artwork like calligraphy and landscape paintings.
Like a lot of the new construction in Beijing, Terminal 3 was rushed to put China’s best face forward in time for the Olympic Games this August. The airport was designed with the future in mind: not just the Olympics, but as a modern architectural icon for China. It’s being mentioned in the same breath as the “Bird’s Nest,” the Olympic stadium in Beijing with its steel mesh exterior, and the “Water Cube,” the blue bubble that serves as China’s National Aquatics Center.
Terminal 3 is one of the biggest airports in the world, but it isn’t enough for the ever-expanding Chinese. In January, Beijing avation officials said they still need another international airport in the city. Construction is expected to begin soon.