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Fields of Dreams

Global aviation is seeing a spate of bigger and better airports popping up around the world

More than four billion trips were made by plane last year, and as increasing numbers take to the skies – with the IATA estimating that figure could reach 8.2 billion by 2037 – many countries are fielding bigger and better airport facilities to keep up with demand.

While some new projects have faced teething issues (such as Islamabad’s new international airport, where a cargo unit started caving in and an aerobridge collapsed), and others have seen the brakes applied (like Mexico City’s partially completed new airport, which the public voted against in a referendum under new president Andrés Manuel López Obrador), here are five new international airports set to take off this year.

Van Don International Airport, Vietnam

Kicking off the year in airport openings (OK, it technically opened the last weekend of 2018) is Van Don International, 30 miles away from beautiful Ha Long Bay in northern Vietnam’s Quang Ninh Province. Travelers previously had to travel for around four hours by road to reach the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The airport is connected to Ha Long City by a new four-lane, 37-mile highway.Constructed over two years at a cost of around 7.4 billion Vietnamese dong ($319 million), it is the country’s first privately-built airport, as the communist government looks to diversify its infrastructure funding (in this case via Danang-based investors Sun Group under a build-operate-transfer agreement).The airport’s single runway and terminal can currently handle 2.5 million passengers annually, but that could increase to five million by 2030. So far, Vietnam Airlines and VietJet Air have announced plans to operate flights between Ho Chi Minh City and Van Don. Local media reports that Van Don will likely mainly operate services to North and Southeast Asian destinations.

Ramon Airport, Israel

The Israeli government opened a second international airport on January 21, though it initially only handles domestic flights on carriers Arkia and Israir, and a schedule for expanding operations has not yet been announced. The airport says it expects to welcome European airlines including Ryanair and Wizz, with more charter airlines joining during the winter season.Ramon is set to handle two million annual visitors initially, expanding to 4.2 million by 2030. It has space for 60 planes, including wide-body aircraft. Times of Israel puts the cost of construction at 1.7 billion shekels ($471 million).It’s located in the south, 11 miles from the resort town of Eilat, where the government is hoping to attract more tourists. The Ramon website says it will replace the two existing airports in the area, Eilat City Airport and Ovda Airport. It will also provide a gateway into southern Jordan, including the resort of Aqaba, and the Taba area of Sinai in Egypt.Israeli officials have also spoken of the need to have a second international airport during times of conflict.

Beijing Daxing International Airport, China

Never one to do things by halves, China is building a huge (and much-needed) second international gateway for Beijing. A 7.5-million-square-foot terminal designed by Zaha Hadid is set to open in September in the south of the capital, and plans to serve 72 million passengers a year. When fully operational, the Centre for Aviation says that figure could rise to 100 million. The existing Beijing Capital was the world’s second-busiest airport by passenger volume in 2017, seeing 95.8 million passengers. Meanwhile the Civil Aviation Administration of China says the country aims to add 216 new airports by 2035, while developing regional hubs.

Istanbul New Airport, Turkey

Although first expected to open in October 2018, and then at the start of 2019, Turkish media reports that the full, official opening of Istanbul Airport is expected in March of this year. It’s currently running some regional flights.

The airport has six runways and will eventually be able to handle 200 million passengers a year, flying to as many as 350 destinations.The existing international airports, Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen, saw a respective 64 and 31 million passengers in 2017. The plan is for all commercial operations at Ataturk to move to Istanbul International, which will then take on its IATA code IST.The move is no mean feat – Turkish Airlines’ chairman Ilker Ayci has called it the world’s largest asset move.

Louis Armstrong New Orleans North Terminal Project

Cheating slightly on this one, but while this isn’t a new airport, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International will get a new $1 billion terminal with 35 gates, set to replace the dated existing terminal. Work began in 2016 and a planned October 2018 opening has been gradually pushed back to May, most recently due to a sewer line sinking into swampy ground.

The new terminal promises a consolidated security checkpoint to allow quicker passage through and give access to amenities at any of the three concourses.

Elsewhere in the US, Charleston Airport will begin four upgrade projects in preparation for the launch of the first international flights to London Heathrow. Meanwhile New York’s LaGuardia (consistently ranked America’s worst airport in traveler surveys) will see more progress in an $8 billion renovation project, with the first step towards the new Terminal B completed late last year.,,