It’s been hailed as an architectural masterstroke and symbol of China’s explosion onto the world stage of global travel.
But Shenzhen International Airport’s brand-new terminal has a problem: nobody seems to want to go there.
The £612 million travel hub opened at 6am yesterday with much fanfare as a Shenzhen Airlines flight took off to next-door Mongolia.
Smiling staff handed out commemorative model planes to passengers on the flight as dozens of golf carts circulated the lounge to give free rides for anyone in need.
But despite claims on its website that tourists can be spirited away to far-flung locations including Sydney, Dubai and Cologne, no airlines actually appear to offer services to or from any of these cities, The Independent reported.
Ha! Another Chinese white elephant. Actually it’s one of the busiest airports in China, serving China’s richest city:
The airport was opened on 12 October 1991. It occupies an area of 10.8 km2. Its runway is 3400 m long and 45 m wide, and it has 53 parking spaces on its apron. The airport also has ferry routes to Hong Kong International Airport, where passengers can transit without going through immigration and custom checks, akin to transit between two flights. Its current terminal covers an area of 152,000 sq meters and consist of 24 jetways.
Shenzhen airport handled 26,713,610 passengers in 2010, according to Civil Aviation Administration of China, making it the fifth busiest in China. The airport was also China’s 4th busiest and world’s 24th busiest airport in terms of cargo traffic, registering 809,363 tonnes of freight. In terms of traffic movements, Shenzhen airport was the 5th busiest airport in China in 2009.
The most recent data I could find was for 2012, when it served 29.4 million, up 10% in just two years. The airport is built to handle 45 million. Given the explosive growth of Chinese aviation, does that seem like a white elephant to you? I predict they’ll start an expansion project within 10 years.
Eight years ago I visited the second largest shopping mall in the world, in the suburbs of Beijing. It was almost empty. Yesterday I talked to a Chinese student who told me that their family recently stopped going there because the parking lot is usually full, although the mall is so large that it is still not particularly crowded. But then the Chinese define “crowded” in a somewhat different way from Americans.
(It’s number 6 on this list. I’ve gone to 9 of the 10 on the list—they are generally very busy. China has lots of problems; empty malls are not high on the list.)
HT: I thank my daughter for the title of this post.