With Terminals 1 and 2 operating at capacity and Beijing's air traffic growing at 20% a year, the 2008 Olympics demanded an immediate solution. This resulted in the US$4.6 billion Terminal 3
Another spectacular new piece of Beijing architecture, the Feng Shui compliant Terminal 3 is the creation of Britain's Norman Foster. With Chinese red columns and a muted gold roof it evokes traditional Chinese colors in a modern design. Looking at the airport from above, with raised scales on its back and long body it looks like a flying dragon, especially with free drinks on the flight over. The terminal is oriented North-South to help incoming passengers get oriented and a system of skylights face southeast to maximize sunshine.
Opened in March 2008, ten thousand villagers had to be relocated from the area surrounding Terminal 3. Built in 3 1/2 years using 50,000 workers, a half million tonnes of steel and two million tonnes of concrete it extends for almost three kilometers. It is six times larger than Heathrow's new T5.
A Canadian built shuttle train runs up the center of the dragon airport, connecting the three main sections. There are 300 check in counters, 451 elevators and a system of baggage carriers able to move up to 20,000 bags per hour over 60km of track at a speed of 7 metres per second. Wow
With Terminal 3 hot off the press, plans are underway for an entirely new airport for Beijing, slated to open in 2015.
Signs are in English and Chinese. Above the monitors show you which check in counter to go to for your flight, below is a map of the checkin area.