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There is a lot of press about the Daxing airport, touting that it will be one of the largest in the world in terms of passenger capacity. The images of the terminal build are indeed beautiful.

But when I look at this image, taken from Wikipedia, there doesn't seem to be a ton of gates:

enter image description here

I couldn't find an authoritative number of how many gates it will have, but this website says it will have about 80. This matches what I see in the image above.

By comparison, Ohare and Hartsfield–Jackson have about 190 gates, JFK 130 gates, Schiphol Airport 165.

Why is this? In the Beijing Capitol Airport right now, there are not enough gates, so when I land there, they have us deplane on the tarmac and take a bus to the terminal. Why didn't they build 200 gates if this is to be the largest airport, by passenger volume, in the world?

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  • $\begingroup$ Not sure if this is relevant here, but 10 A380 gates can possibly have more capacity than 20 gates for A320s/B737s... This is mitigated by the fact that larger planes usually have a longer turnaround time, but it shows that passenger capacity and number of gates are not necessarily directly correlated. $\endgroup$ – jcaron Aug 2 at 12:04
  • $\begingroup$ The Wikipedia page says 79 contact aircraft stands. $\endgroup$ – jcaron Aug 2 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ A380s are no longer being produced - bad clash of between that and terminal design? Seems more gates for smaller planes will now become a driver. $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads Aug 2 at 13:30
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    $\begingroup$ It’s worth noting that ‘having enough gates’ and ‘deplane on the tarmac’ are not mutually exclusive. $\endgroup$ – Jan Aug 2 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Jan For a couple of years now, every time I land at PEK we can't walk to the terminal, instead we must take a bus. This is after about 6 or 10 expensive overseas flights. I asked the staff "why?" they said "not enough gates". This was for United, Hainan, China Southern, and Air China. If you know something I don't, please expand a bit. I honestly can't imaging flying from OHare to Amesterdam and not walking off the plane directly to the terminal for a couple years $\endgroup$ – axsvl77 Aug 3 at 0:27
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Airports aren't built with the envisioned capacity in one go. They are built in stages. Just look at Dubai International for example, they're always expanding the concourses, etc.

For Daxing Airport, I found what looks like a master plan (outline for a project's major elements):

enter image description here
Source: kaskus.co.id

It shows more than one (at least two) main terminal buildings, land area for expansion that is serviced by taxiways and aprons, and even an additional runway to the west. There is also plenty of remote stands, which are appealing (cheaper) to low-cost carriers.

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There are a couple of things I would mention that together could constitute an answer.

  1. 79 gates isn’t all that few. For comparison, Osaka-Kansai has 53 gates in its two terminals and Tokyo Narita 97 spread across three terminals (not including bus gates). Tokyo Haneda has only 63.

  2. While currently all international and most domestic travel to Beijing is handled by Beijing Capital airport, in future Daxing and Capital will operate alongside each other. StarAlliance is set to remain at Capital, SkyTeam will move to Daxing, and OneWorld and non-alliance aircraft can choose—some want to serve both airports others only one. Since Daxing isn’t intended to serve all of Beijing, it doesn’t need to have gates for all of Beijing.

  3. While it is expected that a second fully international airport will free up jetbridges at Capital airport, you cannot just expect all flights to be serviced by them. Bus gates exist and will continue to exist. Some airlines—low cost carriers were explicitly mentioned—will choose to use a bus gate rather than a jetbridge for any reason. So while a higher percentage of bus gate arrivals may support the assumption that an airport is overcrowded, it does not necessarily mean that.

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    $\begingroup$ "Some airlines—low cost carriers were explicitly mentioned—will choose to use a bus gate rather than a jetbridge for any reason." – RyanAir, for one, would still not like gates even if they were gratis. If they can shave just one minute off their turnaround time by not needing to push back (for example), they will gladly take the outfield two cities over. Being able to roll in, and roll straight out again without the need of a tug is a huge timesaver. (They don't do this everywhere, but they like to do it wherever possible.) $\endgroup$ – Jörg W Mittag Aug 2 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ @JörgWMittag I see no contradiction. $\endgroup$ – Jan Aug 2 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Jan As I stated above, these were not low cost, short flights. These included United and Air China. Not trying to detract from your answer, I just want to be clear that what I have been experiencing in PEK is different than the Ryan Air low cost thing. $\endgroup$ – axsvl77 Aug 3 at 0:30
  • $\begingroup$ I also want to point out that the Daxing airport is touted to become the largest airport by passenger traffic in the world. That means the intent, according to the press, is that it will be bigger than the PEK. I want to know how this can be accomplished with less than half the gates to ATL. A good answer would have sources as well, not jut speculation or logic. $\endgroup$ – axsvl77 Aug 3 at 0:38

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