China to build 82 new airports and expand 101 existing ones by 2015 – whether needed or not

The director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, has announced his country will build 82 new airports and expand 101 existing ones during the current five-year plan, , which ends in 2015.  By then, China will have 230 airports, up from the current 182. The number was 175 in 2011.  In 2011 some 130 of China’s 175 airports lost money but Beijing will support them to boost local economic growth. At the end of 2006, the number of  Chinese airports was 147, and it was expected that there would be 192 airports by 2010. That rate of airport building appears not to have happened. 




Will China Build 82 Unneeded Airports By 2015? You Betcha.

22.7.2012  (Forbes)

On Friday, Li Jiaxiang, director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, announced his country will build 82 new airports and expand 101 existing ones during the current five-year plan, the 12th, which ends in 2015.

By then, China will have 230 airports, up from the current 182, according to Huang Min, director of infrastructure at the National Development and Reform Commission.  Most of the new facilities will be feeder airports in the central and western portions of the country.  About 80% of the population will be within 100 kilometers of an airport by the middle of this decade.  Additional building is projected to increase that percentage nine points by 2020.

Does China need all these new airports?  Beijing justifies the ambitious building program on several grounds.  State media, for instance, points to the aviation industry’s three decades of double-digit growth and suggests that is just the beginning.  China’s aviation market, according to central government officials, has the biggest potential for expansion in the world.  State medianotes that, in comparison, the U.S. has 19,000 airports.  Li Jiaxiang on Friday said even Brazil and South Africa have more of them than China.  And China’s airports are a booming industry.  Last year, they earned 4.6 billion yuan according to Mr. Li.

Sounds compelling, doesn’t it?  The case gets stronger still when Li, citing a Ministry of Finance estimate, said an airport can produce output eight times its cost for a local economy.

As this projection indicates, the announcement of the airport-building program was all about the economy.  Li can tell us the State Council this month highlighted civil aviation as “a national strategic industry,” but that appears to be merely a justification for officials to spend central government cash.

In reality, the case for more airports is not as clear as Beijing makes it out to be.  For one thing, many of China’s airports are sinkholes.  Last year, about 130 of them lost more than 2 billion yuan.

Chinese officials last week made the argument that these facilities were money losers because China had too few of them, not too many.  “It’s like planting trees,” said CAAC’s Li.  “One tree will die, but if you plant more, it will become a forest, and the trees will grow higher and higher.”  The imagery does not make sense, but his concrete example was helpful.  He noted all 12 regional airports in Yunnan province were profitable due to the “network effect.”

Building a network is logical if the traffic will support it.  Yet despite what Chinese leaders tell us, the aviation market with the most potential is India’s.  India is both less developed than China and is projected to have at least a half billion more people by the middle of this century.  The Chinese population, on the other hand, will level off somewhere between 2025 and 2020, and the size of China’s workforce could peak as early as next year.

Worse, the Chinese economy is in a downswing that looks like it will last decades—think Japan’s recent trajectory as the best case for China—and Chinese per capita income is still low—21,810 yuan for urban residents and 6,977 yuan for their rural counterparts according to official statistics for last year.  The aviation market may not be there for Beijing, which has based its projections on an ever-expanding economy.

“The plan must consider future development space and not waste money on useless infrastructure,” Li Jiaxiang said on Friday.  Unfortunately, China’s recent record on adding airports is mixed.  Chinese airlines, for instance, are concerned about what will surely be the biggest project in the country, the plan to build a second airport in Beijing.

The new one is slated for a patch of land at least 50 kilometers away from the Capital International Airport.  Airline consultants point out that the government should instead be planning to expand the existing one, instead of building a sprawling facility on the other side of town, near Hebei province.

The reason?  Airlines fear they will be forced to operate from both airports, thereby increasing costs and reducing flexibility.  That’s exactly what happens in Shanghai, where Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines has had to fly out of both Hongqiao International Airport and Pudong International Airport since 1999.  The original plan was to close the decrepit Hongqiao when Pudong was opened, but local officials convinced Beijing to allow them to not only keep Hongqiao but also significantly expand it as well.

Shanghai, for no good reason, has replicated New York’s inefficient Kennedy-LaGuardia arrangement, essentially because building-crazy officials took over from technocratic planners.  And now, the same dynamic is beginning to occur in Beijing.

The latest airport-building binge is bound to waste central government and local money, but most officials probably see that as an advantage.  It’s all about stimulating the economy, no matter how inconvenient that will be for the airlines and their passengers.




Wikipedia lists the airports in China at

and Wikipedia has detailed figures for the busiest Chinese airports over recent years at’s_Republic_of_China



82 new airports to be built

20.7.2012 (Global Times)

China will build 82 new airports, most in regional cities, over the next five years to speed up development of the domestic aviation industry, the nation’s civil aviation watchdog said on Friday.

The announcement from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) comes on the heels of an ambitious blueprint issued last week by the State Council.

China aims to have a total of 230 airports by 2017, with 101 existing airports to be expanded over the same period of time, according to the blueprint.

Around 80 percent of the country’s population will live within 100 kilometers of an airport by 2017, the blueprint said.

CAAC director Li Jiaxiang said construction of the new airports follows the principle of advancing the country’s aviation development within capabilities.

“The plan must consider future development space and not waste money on useless infrastructure,” Li said.

Government officials earlier dismissed suggestions that the cost and pace of construction was unsustainable, stressing China’s aviation market has the biggest growth potential in the world.

“It’s improper to assess an airport based solely on its fiscal state. What’s required is a more comprehensive perspective in terms of the stimulation it can provide to the local economy,” said Li Yong, vice-minister of the Ministry of Finance.

A CAAC report showed that more than two-thirds of Chinese airports, most of them in regional areas, last year lost a combined 2 billion yuan ($313.8 million).

“As an important infrastructure project, the input-output ratio of airports is 1:8. We believe the reason money is being lost is because China has too few airports,” Huang Min, director of the infrastructure department under the National Development and Reform Commission, said Friday.

Zhang Qihui, an aviation law expert at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times that the country’s plan to develop its aviation industry will bolster regional economic development.

“To some extent, small regional airports could play an important role in boosting economic development by spurring tourism,” Zhang said. “But small airports must still meet the equal safety and quality standards required of big airports.”




China to build 70 new airports in three years

China is set to build 70 new airports in three years, the head of the country’s civil aviation watchdog said on Monday.

Beijing, whose main airport already houses a terminal bigger than all five at Heathrow, is set to get an even bigger one with up to seven runways. Photo: Getty

By , in Beijing  (Telegraph)

11 Jun 2012

Li Jiaxiang said that Chinese airlines will also buy an average of 300 planes a year until 2015.

The ambitious blueprint for aviation, contained in the country’s five-year plan has remained intact despite the economic slowdown in recent years.

Beijing, whose main airport already houses a terminal bigger than all five at Heathrow, is set to get an even bigger one with up to seven runways.

It is seen as necessary, even though the existing airport is capable of handling 100m passengers a year.

Such is the growth in demand that slots are hard to come by apart from in the early hours of the morning.

The pace of China’s expansion comes as the UK Government has found itself facing increasing criticism over its failure to tackle capacity shortages, especially in London and the South East.

“China plans to build 70 new airports in the next few years and to expand 100 existing airports,” he told delegates in Beijing at the global summit of the International Air Transport Association.

He added that the number of airports would reach more than 230 by the end of 2015, when the total fleet operated by Chinese airlines would reach 4,700 planes.

His bullishness was in contrast to the pessimism expressed by Tony Tyler, Iata’s director general. He said global airline profits were likely to halve this year with European carriers likely to make a loss because of the banking crisis and economic slowdown.

Even in the Asia pacific region, which remains healthy compared to the rest of the world, airline profits are likely to be half the 2011 figure. It is still expected to make a $2bn profit, despite the slowdown in the Chinese and Indian economies.

Iata did not provide specific projections for the China market, which has so far experienced booming growth due to rising demand for air travel as increasingly affluent Chinese people travel more frequently.

Ma Kai, a state councillor in charge of economic development, said that China’s aviation market had the “biggest growth potential” in the world, having realised annual growth of 17.5pc since 2005 . “Ever since 2005, the industry has realised an annual growth rate of 17.5pc. “We have contributed to the current development of growth in the global civil aviation industry and will continue to do so for the time to come.”



China Plans 45 New Airports Over The Next 5 Years

24.2.2011 (Huffington Post)

BEIJING — China plans to build at least 45 new airports in the next five years to serve booming travel, the top industry regulator said Thursday.

The plans call for spending 1.5 trillion yuan ($230 billion) to expand air travel, said Li Jiaxiang, administrator of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Some 130 of China’s 175 existing airports lost money last year but Beijing will support them to boost local economic growth, Li said at a news conference.

He said incomes in farming areas have risen when airports open nearby, allowing their fruit and vegetables to be flown to more prosperous major cities.

China’s fast-growing air travel market is expected to pass North America as the world’s biggest in coming decades.

Li said the plans call for increasing the number of airports to at least 220 in the next five years.

He gave no indication where they would be, but Beijing is spending heavily to develop poorer areas and China’s west and link them to booming eastern cities.




China to Build 97 Airports in 12 Years 

25.3.2008  (Tree Hugger)

According to China’s People’s Daily, 97 new airports will be built in China in the next 12 years. That will bring the total number to 244 airports by 2020. At the end of 2006, the number was 147, and it is expected that there will be 192 airports by 2010. This means that 82% of Chinese people will live within 100 kilometers of an airport by 2020.

It’s not clear exactly what criteria the People’s Daily uses to define what types of airports are included in its count, but if we compare apples to apples and look in the CIA factbook, we find that there are 5,143 airports (paved runways) in the USA vs. 403 in China. That helps keep things in perspective…Still, regardless of who has more airports, it is obvious that the whole sector is fast-growing and will contribute more and more to global warming and air pollution as time goes on. How can we make it greener? How can we keep the many benefits of air travel and reduce or eliminate the negative side-effects?

There are many potential solutions floating around, but we can’t know yet which ones will work and which will fail. That’s why we must start working on the problem right now and not wait for a more urgent crisis.

As food for thought, here’s a possible scenario:

Ground transportation is moving towards electrification (with batteries, hypercapacitors, hydrogen, etc, as storage mediums), because that’s more efficient than burning fuel and losing most of the energy as heat. It is also easier (so far) to produce clean electricity than clean liquid fuels.

Unfortunately, airplanes cannot transition to electricity in the way that cars can. That leaves two angles of attack for improvement: Efficiency, and finding another liquid fuel source.


Western China to have 37 new airports between 2006-10 


China expects to start making homegrown large commercial aircraft by 2020,   raising
the possibility of future competition for Boeing and Airbus in the country’s booming
market for new planes.   With China expected to buy 2,230 new planes between now
and 2025, the government has fast-tracked development plans to ensure that its
own companies grab a share.   China’s aviation ambitions have stumbled along for
decades, but experts said the latest plan appeared to be plausible given the technological
prowess China has gained from building parts for foreign makers. An agreement
with Airbus to open a final assembly line in China for its mid-size A320 aircraft
will be particularly advantageous. (People’s Daily Online –