Transferring through Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) may soon become significantly less stressful for business travellers, with Star Alliance, member airline Air China and BCIA recently signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to co-locate all member carriers in the same terminal.
Under the new arrangement, Star Alliance will be permitted to introduce a number of improvements to its passenger processing experience, notably automated processes, off-airport check-in, and fast bag drop of self-tagging.
Such facilities will be a welcome addition to BCIA, the Chinese capital’s primary airport. There are currently 17 Star Alliance member airlines that serve BCIA, most notably flag carrier Air China, and transiting through the airport even among alliance members is often an arduous process, with delays and passengers typically required to collect and re-check-in their baggage when transiting.
Air China only began offering a Fully Entrusted-No Baggage Claim service in January this year, which permits the carrier to open passengers’ luggage on their behalf when transiting through Beijing to other domestic destinations for customs and quarantine purposes, essentially enabling travellers to check their baggage through to their final destination. Even then, this service is only open to travellers on flights originating from Europe and the Americas and only on Air China’s own flights.
According to Air China’s website, without using this service the minimum time for transiting via Beijing from an international to domestic flight is 90 minutes when transferring in Terminal 3 and 160 minutes when transferring between T3 and T2, and T3 and T1.
“This is a win-win situation for all sides”, said Du Qiang, vice president of BCIA. “Having the commitment from Star Alliance allows us to secure the necessary resources to jointly provide an improved customer experience at our airport.”
The MoU also indicates the alliance’s intention to focus its services through Beijing’s primary airport, as opposed to the city’s upcoming Daxing International Airport, which is currently set to open in October 2019.
“Beijing is an important hub for our Star Alliance network,” said Christian Draeger, Star Alliance’s vice president customer experience. “The opening of the second airport at Daxing presents us with an opportunity to cement our commitment to Beijing Capital International Airport. This agreement now sets the foundation to provide a superior customer experience and achieve future growth at the Beijing hub.”
This stands in contrast to rival airline alliance Skyteam and in particular member airline, China Eastern. Alongside China Eastern’s main hub in Shanghai, the airline is also set to move to Daxing International Airport when it begins operations.
Speaking at a recent media event in Hong Kong, Hong Wong, president for Greater China and Singapore of fellow Skyteam carrier Delta, said that when China Eastern relocates to the new airport, the US carrier could well follow suit.
“Naturally, when China Eastern moves, they will invest heavily there, start basing aircraft at the new airport and build a significant network,” he said. “If they start building such a network then it makes a lot of sense for us to consider how do we mesh and integrate our services to make Beijing a second hub.”
Star Alliance’s 17 carriers serving Beijing currently connect the city to 177 destinations globally, while Skyteam has 11 airlines operating flights to the Chinese capital.