ROUTES: Beijing Capital sees more transiting passengers

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A new visa-free programme is helping to boost passenger traffic at Beijing Capital International airport (BCIA), already the world's second-busiest airport after Atlanta.

BCIA officials are promoting the visa-free programme, which launched in Beijing at the start of the year, as they continue to work to attract more airlines to fly to it. The visa-free programme allows transiting passengers to stay in Beijing for up to 72 hours without a transit visa, a convenience that BCIA vice-president Gao Lijia reckons will be attractive to both travellers and airlines.

Since the programme launched, an average of 1,000 transiting passengers per month have made use of it but the number is set to grow, says Gao. "It is increasing every month. Many airlines and passengers from other countries are not aware of the programme yet, so we hope to promote it more."

BCIA handled 81.9 million passengers last year, up from 78.7 million in 2011. But BCIA is not resting on its laurels just yet. The airport has talks planned with more than 30 airlines at World Routes 2013, among them airlines from Africa and Asia. Gao believes there is good potential for African airlines to serve the Chinese capital, which is now served by six African carriers.

BCIA is also in the midst of improving its terminal two, as it adds more waiting areas and retail space to improve passengers' experiences, says Gao. Looking further ahead, the airport is conducting studies on how it can make the allocation of flight slots more efficient to alleviate flight delays at the busy airport.

Chinese authorities have approved plans to build a second airport in Beijing, which will be ready in 2018. State-owned Capital Airports Holding, which manages BCIA, will also be in charge of the new airport.