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Robots What it’s like to travel through Beijing’s futuristic new airport, which is shaped like a starfish and is the biggest single terminal in the


Andrea Verdelli

2019-10-17T20: 02: 00Z

Robots beijing daxing airport checkin hall

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  • China opened its new international airport to great fanfare in late September.
  • Beijing Daxing International is the largest single-terminal airport in the World. The project cost $63 billion and took four years to build.
  • I traveled through the airport and experienced the futuristic architecture and state-of-the-art facilities first-hand earlier this month.
  • Scroll down to see my journey.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

BEIJING, China — China officially opened its shiny new airport to commercial flights on September 25, 2019, with President Xi Jinping personally conducting the inauguration.

Beijing Daxing International Airport, which was designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid, is the largest single terminal in the World. The entire project cost $63 billion and took four years to complete.

I took a flight from Beijing to Shanghai out of Daxing earlier this month — despite its name, it also serves domestic flights — and had the chance to experience the futuristic architecture and play around with state-of-the-art facilities first-hand.

Scroll down to see what my trip was like.

Robots My journey started at Caoqiao station in central Beijing, where I took the newly-built Daxing Line straight to the airport. President Xi Jinping also took this train when he inaugurated the airport in September.

Robots beijing daxing airport express caoqiao station

Inside Caoqiao Station in downtown Beijing, home to an airport express that takes travelers straight to Beijing Daxing International Airport.
Andrea Verdelli/Business Insider

The Daxing Line also provided free WiFi, which doesn’t exist on other Beijing metro lines.

Source: CGTN

Robots Like almost everywhere else in Beijing, there were security cameras and propaganda billboards all over Caoqiao station. There were a lot of posters celebrating China’s National Day and 70 years of Communist Party rule, which took place a few days before the trip.

Robots china propaganda billboard

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This billboard reads: “Enthusiastically celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.”

Read more: 7 intimidating images from China’s 70th anniversary show just how powerful its military has become

Robots I paid 35 yuan ($4.96) for the train, which travels 40 km (25 miles) in 19 minutes. You can buy tickets on the automatic machine with cash or through WeChat or Alipay by scanning a QR code.

Robots bejing daxing express ticket machine

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Read more: One photo shows that China is already in a cashless future

Robots The train was almost empty, likely because the airport was still brand new at this point.

Robots beijing daxing airport express train carriage

Andrea Verdelli/Business Insider

Robots There was a security officer standing in each train cabin, as well as security cameras on the ceiling. TV screens also showed videos of the Daxing airport express being built, alongside the logo of the 70th anniversary of the PRC’s founding.

Robots beijing daxing airport express train

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Robots The train reaches a maximum speed of 149 km/h (92.6 mph) — relatively slow compared to the Maglev train that connects Shanghai’s Pudong Airport to the city at a dazzling speed of 430 km/h (267 mph).

Robots beijing daxing airport express view

The view out of the Beijing Daxing airport express.
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Source: Shanghai Airport Transfer

Robots We’ve arrived! The final stop of the Daxing line — the airport — is white and clean. And a lot of people on the train started taking photos as soon as they got off.

Robots beijing daxing airport express

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Robots Inside the airport terminal, I saw multiple automated kiosks providing information about flight times and the airport’s services — albeit in Mandarin Chinese only. There was a slot to scan Chinese IDs and passports, but it didn’t work when I tried to scan my foreign passport.

Robots beijing daxing airport auto kiosk

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The computer’s operating system shut down and restarted when I scanned my passport.

Robots On the same floor I spotted a peculiar piece of artwork, made entirely of paper origami swans: a Chinese phrase that says “The motherland is strong, and the nation is rejuvenated.” The last two characters say “Da” and “Xing” — the name of the airport.

Robots beijing daxing airport art

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Robots Here’s what it looked like up close.

Robots beijing daxing airport art swans

Andrea Verdelli/Business Insider

Robots I then took the elevator to check out the rest of the airport. It was equipped with a touchscreen panel that lists out each floor’s amenities.

Robots beijing daxing airport elevator

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Robots My first stop was the parking lot, which has plants dotted around the floor. I was surprised by how nice it was — as were the other travelers in this photo.

Robots beijing daxing airport car park

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Some time in the near future the parking lot will be equipped with robots to help drivers park and pick up their cars, with the goal of reducing average parking times, the South China Monring Post reported.

These robots will be used alongside JD.com’s Smart Parking System, an app that shows a real-time map of available park slots.

However, I didn’t see any of these robots during my trip. Perhaps the airport hasn’t used them yet.

Robots Time for check-in. I was stunned by the beauty of the departures hall — massive openings in the ceiling let natural sunlight flow in — reducing the need for artificial lighting — but blocked out heat.

Robots beijing daxing airport checkin hall

Andrea Verdelli/Business Insider

The airport also tries to be environmentally friendly: according to China’s state-run Science and Technology Daily, its air conditioning system runs on geothermal heat.

The shadows also made some lovely patterns on the wall and floor. It felt like everyone in the airport stopped to take photos here.

Robots The airport has more than 400 self-service check-in kiosks, which authorities hope will make the process more efficient. However, an attendant asked me to check in at the desk instead, saying it would be faster for foreign passports.

Robots beijing daxing airport checkin kiosk

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Source: South China Morning Post

Robots I played around with the automated check-in kiosk anyway, and had my face scanned. The option on the right says “facial recognition” in Chinese.

Robots beijing daxing airport facial recognition scan

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However, my passport still didn’t work.

Robots This is meant to speed up security checks later on — instead of showing your passport and boarding card, the automated gates will recognize your face and let you through within three seconds.

Robots beijing daxing airport passport scan

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Source: Global Times

Robots Every check-in kiosk was decorated with the Chinese national flag.

Robots beijing daxing airport kiosk flag

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It’s not entirely clear if they were only there for the PRC’s 70th anniversary or a permanent fixture.

Robots I then headed up to the fifth and highest floor, which serves as a platform for travelers to survey the entire airport.

Robots beijing daxing airport top floor

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Robots I decided to explore some of the restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. Many of them are famous fast food chains and cafes — I saw at least three Starbucks stores, two Costa Coffees, as well as their Chinese rival Luckin Coffee.

Robots beijing daxing airport luckin coffee

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Robots I chose to go for “The Dining Room,” which looked the most crowded from the outside. It had an open kitchen where cooks were hard at work.

Robots beijing daxing airport restaurant

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Robots The shelves were adorned with fake cardboard books.

Robots beijing daxing airport restaurant decor

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Robots I ordered the country’s famous xiaolongbao, a small dumpling filled with meat and soup. I went for these traditional pork ones …

Robots beijing daxing airport xiaolongbao pork

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Robots … as well as these black truffle ones, which I have never seen in my four years of living in China. The two dishes cost 72 yuan ($10.20) in total.

Robots beijing daxing airport xiaolongbao truffle

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Robots After my meal, I decided to walk around a bit more. There were a lot of patriotic signs on show.

Robots beijing daxing airport patriotic show

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Robots Free water dispensers were pretty much everywhere. It gave two options: warm water and boiling water. Chinese medicine suggests that cold is harmful for the body, so you won’t be seeing any icy cold water here.

Robots beijing daxing airport water

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Robots By this point, it was time to make my way to my gate. I took my carry-on luggage through the security screening, which had special trays equipped with RFID chips. There was also a row of cameras along the conveyor belt to photograph passengers with their luggage.

Robots beijing daxing airport security

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According to the state-run CGTN news channel, the airport will introduce a millimeter wave scanner that will scan passengers without touching them, while increasing the accuracy of the scan.

Robots After the security check I entered the domestic departures hall — the center of the airport’s giant “starfish” design.

Robots beijing daxing airport departures hall

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Robots Here’s what it looks like from the outside. The entrance to the departures hall is in the center, and the gates are at the tip of the six starfish “arms.”

Robots Peking Airport


Because of that, every single gate is reachable within an eight-minute walk.

Robots The departures hall boasts giant windows, through which sunlight seeps and you can watch planes arriving and departing.

Robots beijing daxing airport departures hall windows 3

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Robots However, many parts of the hall were still closed to the public because the airport had only been open for a week during my visit.

Robots beijing daxing airport no entry

“Construction in progress,” the sign says. “No entry.”
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Robots Some shops were still open, though. I saw multiple luxury brands, including Louis Vuitton, ETRO, Gucci, Moncler … and a huge Huawei store.

Robots beijing daxing airport huawei

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Robots After a bit more exploring, I realized I had to go to my gate — perhaps I was too busy taking photos to hear the boarding announcement! I left the airport in awe of its impressive design and heartened by how proud the Chinese seemed to be of it.

Robots beijing daxing airport departures hall windows

Andrea Verdelli/Business Insider


Beijing Daxing International Airport
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