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UPDATED: March 26, 2007 web exclusive
Will New Beijing Capital Airport: Be Ready for the Olympic Games?
In an interview with Beijing Review, Dr. John Kasarda, an expert on aviation infrastructure and logistics, shared his views on China's airport construction and airport economy
On March 27, 2007, Beijing will introduce the 2008 Olympic Games with a series of "500 Days to Go" promotion activities.

The next day, by coincidence, is the third anniversary of the beginning of the Beijing Capital Airport expansion construction project. With a budget of 27 billion yuan (USD 3.4 billion), the expanded construction project includes a third terminal and runways, a parking building, a traffic control center and relevant technologically advanced facilities.

Will the new Beijing Capital Airport meet the requirements for the 2008 Olympic Games? In an interview with Beijing Review North American correspondent Zong Xing, Dr. John Kasarda, Director of the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shared his views on China's airport construction and airport economy.

Beijing Review: As an expert on airport construction, you are widely regarded as the creator of the concept "Aerotropolis." What does an "Aerotropolis" look like?

John Kasarda: To be honest, I'm not the creator but an elaborator of "Aerotropolis"; maybe I'm considered its creator because I've done much more than others in promoting it since the mid-1990s.

The first time I heard "Aerotropolis" was in 1994 when I was working on a new airport development strategy with officials in Zhuhai, southern China.

An "Aerotropolis" is an aviation-linked urban form consisting of an airport surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of single and multiple-family housing, office space, light industrial space, restaurants, upscale retail mix, hotel accommodations, entertainment venues, and even golf courses.

Can I say that today's airport, according to your explanation, is much more than a place where aircraft, passengers, and cargo arrive and depart?

Yes. First, let me tell you about my work in China. I worked on the Shanghai Pudong, Beijing Capital, and Zhuhai airports. China is placing emphasis on being the hub in the global supply chain. The supply chains are increasingly connected by air. These supply chains need to be operated very efficiently. Whether it is micro-electronics, pharmaceuticals or digitized components, all those products move around the world by air. Thus, the airport becomes much more than infrastructure where planes land and people and cargo are moved; it also provides a tremendous competitive advantage for a locality.

So if you can improve your accessibility, speed, and agility, you improve your competitiveness. In the 21st century, connectivity and speed are as important as the quality of your product.

How can you improve these elements in a "flat" world so that companies can deliver their products on time to customers all over the world? I work with countries to show them how to improve their airport enterprise so that it can become more attractive to business and industry.

There are two complaints related to airport service that are widely discussed in China. One is the mandatory 50 yuan (USD 6) "airport construction fee" or travel tax that each passenger is charged. Another is that high cost of merchandise in the airport sometimes two or three times higher than street prices. What's your comment on these phenomena?

First, let me clarify your question. When you travel in the U.S., the "airport construction fee" is already included in the price of the ticket. It has been this way for decades. The passengers just don't realize it. The "airport construction fee" is turned in to the federal government, which then redistributes the fees to the airports for their construction and expansion. The U.S. has the same kind of passenger fee as China, it's just more subtle about drawing attention to it.

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