CHENGDU: China’s long-awaited Chengdu Tianfu International Airport has officially begun operations, offering travelers a new gateway to the home of giant pandas.
Its inaugural flight, operated by Sichuan Airlines, took off at 11:10 a.m. on Sunday, bound for Beijing.
Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is now the third city in the country to have two international airports, joining Shanghai and Beijing.
Constructed at a cost of about 70 billion Chinese yuan ($10.8 billion), phase one of the massive aviation hub has the capacity to handle up to 60 million passengers per year, further opening up the country’s southwest region.
Three runways and two terminals, covering a total area of 710,000 square meters, are in operation. According to state media outlet, the airport will eventually house terminals covering 1.4 million square meters, capable of handling 120 million passengers annually.
In addition to the famous pandas, Sichuan is famous for its spicy cuisine and beautiful scenery, making it one of China’s most-popular tourist destinations among both domestic and international tourists.
For now, however, the new airport will only be catering to the former. China remains closed to most international travelers.