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China to build 55 airports in five years
China aims to ease airport congestion as passenger numbers soar
China plans to increase its total number of airports from 175 to 230 over the next five years, according to senior aviation officials in China.
Li Jiaxiang, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), commented on the aviation development in Beijing, saying, "450 million to 500 million passenger trips" are expected to be made annually by the end of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) period, up from 230 million in 2009.
Beijing Capital International is now the second busiest airport in the world, overtaking London Heathrow which has slipped to fourth place. According to Airports Council International, passenger numbers in the Chinese capital jumped 13 percent to 73.9 million in 2010.
The extra 55 airports will relieve pressure on the existing 175. The number of Chinese international passengers, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), is forecast to increase by 66.87 percent to 82.1 million by 2014 from 49.2 million in 2009.
"There are now two distinct travel markets ... Asia and China," said CNN’s business travel expert Richard Quest.
" When it comes to China, it’s a bit like asking where the 500-pound gorilla fits -– the answer is wherever it wants. People are awed by the statistics and China completely skews the Asia travel market."
Li Jiaxiang added that investment in China's aviation industry is likely to reach 1.5 trillion yuan (about US$230 billion) in the next five years."
Nick Cunningham, an analyst at Agency Partners in London explained that air travel typically expands at twice the pace of the economy and China's rapidly growing gross domestic product expanded to 10.3 percent in 2010.
Currently, the world's largest economy is the United States and it is home to 15,095 airports and 300 million citizens. In contrast, China has 1.3 billion people and only 175 airports.