Well well well, not satisfied with T3’s monster size, construction of Beijing’s new massive airport – set to be the world’s largest – is well under way and looking good for its 2019 opening. This newest tangle of concrete will touch down in what most expats would consider the “There Be Dragons” portion of the city: Daxing District.
With 60 percent of its foundation complete and less than three years to go, Beijing’s clever netizens have yet to come up with a cute nickname – a la the Bird’s Nest, the Big Egg, and the Big Pants – that has stuck for this giant new construction, though the running favorite is the Big Starfish.
Media accounts indicate that the new terminal will have 78 gates, a hip capsule hotel to catch some shut-eye, as well as a massive train station as large as the Beijing Railway Station underneath, connecting the airport to the Beijing subway and China’s national railway system.
While our advice might be coming a bit too late for the major infrastructure portions of the new airport, here’s our list of ideas that should be taken into consideration so that it doesn’t suck as badly as our current option, making not only the world’s largest but also the world’s best airport:
1. A quality food street that encompasses the best of local Chinese and foreign cuisines at reasonable prices.
Why do we have to be stuck with overpriced dross and bad fast food? Why not make the airport showcase the best Beijing (and the world) has to offer. In terms of Chinese food we’re thinking Da Dong Roast Duck, Din Tai Fung, Jin Ding Xuan, and perhaps a fourth Zhang Mama outlet. We also really wouldn’t mind a Moka Bros or Comptoirs de France outlet, and why not a craft beer stand with Great Leap, Slow Boat and Arrow Factory brews? We also recommend keeping these outlets open 24/7 aka not closing the restaurants and stores at 8pm like T2 tends to do.
2. A souvenir shop that has stuff people would actually want to buy, preferably one that rotates selection.
Sure, there are people who come for that once-in-a-lifetime China trip and will buy any old clichéd crap you serve them because they feel guilty going home empty-handed. But for those of us who actually live in Beijing, why not sell souvenirs that take into account that we pass through the airport more than once. Things like quality books about China, cool Beijing-inspired art, or perhaps some of Plastered 8‘s most Beijing-y options. Even just opening an H&M would make the new airport better with regards to its shopping experience than the current T1, T2, and T3 shopping options.
3. A rent-by-the-hour coworking space, where business travelers could get functional work done in a comfortable environment.
How many of us fritter away hours of our lives sitting on uncomfortable airport chairs wandering between gates? A coworking space where you could sit for an hour or two would make the wait go by faster, and would really improve international perception of the airport: make it the worlds’ most productive.
4. A massive indoor playground for kids.
Bored kids in airports and in airplanes are like time bombs, no matter what their age. We’d like to see playgrounds in each of the arms of the terminal, segregated for toddlers and older children. Parents and non-parents alike would benefit from kids so exhausted from a romp in the playground that they sleep through the flight.
5. Mobile Taipan foot massage masseuses offering pre-flight relaxation and spa.
Why not? There’s nothing worse than getting on a long-haul flight pre-stressed. A foot massage or a long soak can go a long way in fixing this problem.
6. Ubiquitous free Wi-Fi for all.
This one speaks for itself. And forget password protection or time limits. We also don’t want to be hanging around the airport for more than three hours, but sometimes that’s just the way it is, and a little bit of Wi-Fi can help you forget that fact and improve the experience a lot.
7. Budget and mid-range hotels not near but in the airport, within walking distance of check-in.
Flight delayed? No more nightmares getting shuttled off to somewhere off-site, or wondering about how you’re going to afford that expensive five-star airport hotel. It really shouldn’t be that hard to put budget and mid-range hotels in the airport, allowing people to get some shut-eye or a shower.
8. A pay-per-hour fitness center with showers and rentable gym clothes.
Another great way to spend time at the airport during a delay would be to sweat it out and be able to shower afterwards. Rentable gym clothes would complete this super fangbian experience, although their laundry services would have to be on point.
9. Temperature contol.
You’d think this was pretty obvious, but on many summer days it feels like Beijing International Capital Airport just doesn’t have it’s aircon switched on. Turn on that damn A/C, and you may find that people are less grumpy and that flights are less smelly. It might even make us less forgiving when it turns out our flights are undoubtedly delayed.
10. Enough working runways.
And finally, without sounding like we’re getting ahead of ourselves, why not create a system whereby flights aren’t perpetually delayed? We know, such a mindblowing example of organizational practices and improved communication with Beijing’s ever-fickle military airspace overlords might be a little too much to ask, so why not just have more than one working runway? We’re fairly tired of spending upwards of 30 minutes taxiing, as beautiful as Beijing Capital International Airport is, but maybe, just maybe, let’s try and make it the exception, not the rule, come 2019.