Beijing Capital International Airport. (Photo/Xinhua)
Beijing's Capital International will become the world's busiest airport by the end of the year, replacing Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson, according a report in USA Today.
Predicting that China will also be the epicenter of an unprecedented global demand for new pilots, USA Today said one out of every five commercial aircraft built by Boeing will be bound for Beijing next decade. Perry Flint, spokesman for the Canada-based International Air Transport Association, said that China is now world's second largest air travel market, with 300 million passengers a year.
The United States remains by far the world's largest market for air travel, with about 806 million passengers taking off from the country in 2011. But with China's market still expanding, some analysts believe it will surpass the United States sooner or later — perhaps in little more than two decades. The Official Airline Guide based in London predicts Beijing will overtake Atlanta as the world's busiest airport by the end of 2013.
"I think there'll be a little bit of a battle over the next few months between Atlanta and Beijing as they fight it out," said Rob Shaw, Official Airline Guide's director of analytics. "But eventually Atlanta will sit steady while Beijing continues its growth, enabling Beijing to grab and retain the Number One spot."
Angela Gittens, director general of Airports Council International, a non-profit global trade organization, also says Beijing will overtake Atlanta, but not until 2016.
China still has a long way to go, however. The country will need an estimated 71,300 pilots in the next 20 years. Yet though many job opportunities will be created, it will take a good deal of time for American pilots to get used to the lifestyle in China, said Kit Darby, an aviation consultant who runs a career information service for pilots.