In May 2012 I still arrived at the old Kunming Wujiaba Airport, which was located close to the city center. It was like it had been 10 years earlier, when I had arrived the first time in Kunming: a provincial airport without any international connections. Since then much has changed indeed. I remember that I heard in 2005 that a first international fight was opened from Kunming to Amsterdam to boost the business with fresh cut flowers, but that was just a misleading begin of –comparatively speaking- decaying CN-EU trade relations. As of June 30, 2012 Wujiaba Airport has been closed down and will be leveled for new real estate projects. The location just outside of the second ring elevated high way is valuable for residential as well as commercial developments in an exploding urban center, which has grown at least for times in terms of area over the last 10 years. The new Changshui Airport is located 40 km to the Northeast of town. It was inaugurated on July 1 as was the first Kunming subway line #6 which connects the city center with the airborne transportation hub. Line #6 indicates that at least five lines are to follow in the close future, but priority was given to the city-airport connection.
Wujiaba Airport is said to be the country’s forth largest after Beijing Capital, Shanghai Pudong and Guangzhou Airport. The scale of its size –dwarfing the also recently opened Vienna Skylink- dawned at us, when we arrived from Shanghai Pudong at a far off gate and walked 15 minutes (!) to the baggage pick up in spite of using the human conveyor belts to move faster – something I usually avoid, because I like to stretch my feet after a flight.
The airport will be China’s major transportation hub into SEA and Southern Asia, and it will take in the bulk of Indian, Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian transit passengers who don’t have direct flights to Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. But since the old Luosiwan textile market has been moved as well within the city and converted into a huge commodity market tailored to South Asian customers, they might as well just head to Kunming and don’t move beyond it. Considering that India and China are the two most populous nations on this planet, the vastness of the building seems to be justified. China is the playground for new dimensions of mass transportations and this airport is a contemporary showpiece. 38 million passengers are to be handled like cattle by 2015. It is therefore justified to nickname Kunming due to location and size the “Chinese Atlanta”. Until this reputation has been solidly established the airport will have to contents itself with an exponentially growing number of Chinese tourists who visit Yunnan province every year.