The Airfield’s Capacity will be doubled to receive 45 million passengers and 600,000 tonnes of Cargo every year by 2035. An Airbus A380 operated by China Southern Airlines and a Boeing 737-800 by Hainan Airlines from Guangzhou to Haikou will land on August 1 in the expanded airfield as the test flight; the Airfield’s Spokesman said.

Haikou Meilan International Airport, the main gateway to China’s Southernmost Province of Hainan, is close to wrapping up its 17.8 billion yuan (US$2.54 billion) expansion in the Country’s biggest Free Trade Port & Duty Free Shopping Zone.

The trial flight and the completion of Meilan’s expansion would be a boon for the island province dubbed “China’s Hawaii,” increasing its capacity to receive the 90 million duty free shoppers, holidaymakers, pensioners and business travellers, according to the local authorities’ plans who visit the tropical island.

The airport is a key part of Hainan’s blue print to become China’s largest free-trade zone by 2020 and a free-trade port by 2025, helping to connect the world’s second-largest economy with the rest of the world especially nations along its Belt and Road Initiative.

“Hainan as a free trade port will have three focal points; international tourism, trade and modern services, which all need transport support especially from aviation,” said Lin Zhijie of the State-run Aviation Think Tank. “Otherwise it will still be an island targeting domestic travellers.”

As many as 83.14 million people visited Hainan in 2019, of which 1.42 million came from overseas, according to the Hainan government. One in every five foreign visitor to Hainan, or 280,000 of them, came from Russia, making up the biggest group of international arrivals.

The tropical island and its sandy beaches had for decades been the favourite winter escape for Russian travellers. In cities like Sanya, street signs carry the Cyrillic script as the second default language instead of the Pinyin seen in other Chinese cities.

Around 280,000 Russians travelled to the tropical island in 2019, according to World Without Borders, a travel association established by Russian tour operators, that means 19.7 per cent of foreign visitors in Hainan came from Russia.

Meilan’s expansion work started in 2016, including the highest-grade 4F Class airfield with a 3,600-metre (11,800 feet) runway capable of landing an Airbus A380, the largest passenger aircraft in service, capable of carrying as many as 853 passengers in a single-class configuration. China Southern is the only carrier in the country to fly the super jumbo aircraft.

“Upgrading the runway to 4F will attract more airlines to fly through or to Hainan from Europe, Americas and Middle East,” said Qi Qi, an Associate Professor at Guangzhou Civil Aviation College. “The importance of Meilan not only lies in the runway, but the new terminal buildings, aprons, new commercial facilities and duty-free shops, they are all integrated.”

A 4F Class runway will relieve the capacity crunch of Meilan, Lin said, noting that business-class domestic fares to Hainan from other Chinese cities cost as much as 70,000 yuan (US$10,000) during the peak winter season, when Chinese holidaymakers escape the country’s frigid north.

“It is beneficial for the tourism industry in Hainan to enhance the capacity of Meilan Airport, and tackle the bottleneck for development,” Lin said.

The expansion work includes a second terminal building with 296,000 square metres, capable of handling up to 10 million international passengers annually.

Meilan plans to go through industry verification and receive an airport use permit licence in August and September. It aims to apply for more certifications to qualify it as an International Cargo Port, reducing the transition time of Passengers & Cargo.

Author: Iris Ouyang